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Autoimmune diseases


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Our immune system functions to protect us from diseases and infections. The cells of the immune system identify the foreign particles and evoke a response to kill them. Autoimmune disease occurs when the immune system attacks the healthy cells and tissues of your own body.


Symptoms of autoimmune diseases

Some common symptoms that show up when you have autoimmune disease are: 

  • Joint and muscle pain, muscle weakness
  • Rashes on skin, around nose, cheeks, hives
  • Unusual weight loss or weight gain
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Dryness in skin, mouth, dry eyes
  • Cold intolerance, rapid heart rate
  • Stomach pain, bloody stool, etc.
  • Loss of appetite, sleeplessness, sweating 
The symptoms vary largely according to the type of disease.


Common types of autoimmune diseases

Rheumatoid arthritis: The antibodies attack the joints and muscles causing inflammation and pain

Inflammatory bowel disease: The lining of the intestine is attacked by the immune cells, causing rectal bleeding and bowel urgency

Type 1 diabetes: The insulin producing cells are destroyed by the body’s immune system, which leads to high blood sugar.

Multiple sclerosis: Nerve cells of the body are attacked, which leads to the muscular spasms and poor nervous co-ordination.

Hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism: Autoimmune antibodies attack the cells of the thyroid gland which either make it overactive or underactive

Psoriasis: An autoimmune skin disease characterized by formation of shiny scales on the skin.

Lupus: The cells of the joints and muscles are attacked. It can also damage the heart, kidneys and the skin.

Scleroderma: An autoimmune disease of the skin characterised by abnormal proliferation of connective tissues of the skin


Causes of autoimmune diseases?

The exact cause of autoimmune disease is not known. However doctors propose that foreign bodies like bacteria, chemicals, drugs, transplants, carcinogens, etc. can trigger autoimmunity.


What are the risk factors of autoimmunity?
  • People with family history of autoimmune disorders are vulnerable.
  • Those who are regularly exposed to chemicals, work in healthcare sectors, live in unhygienic environment where rate of viral and bacterial infections is high.
  • Women in their childbearing age and post menopause are vulnerable.
  • Certain autoimmune diseases are more common to a particular race or ethnic background.


Diagnosis of autoimmune diseases

The key tests for autoimmunity are directed towards confirming the presence of the autoimmune antibodies.

For this you will have to undergo blood tests for detection of autoantibody and antinuclear antibody in your blood.

Blood tests are also conducted to analyse complete blood count profile, check erythrocyte sedimentation rate and quantity of C reactive protein.

Apart from these tests, your doctor would also evaluate your health, check your medical history and lifestyle factors and physically examine different parts of the body. You might have to undergo further diagnostic tests which will be determined by your doctor.


Treatment for autoimmune diseases

Most of the autoimmune diseases have no cure. The treatment primarily focuses on alleviating the symptoms like pain and inflammation through a combined therapy of drugs and lifestyle management.

Sometimes immune suppressants are used to control progression of the disease and potential inflammation of vital organs of the body. Insulin shots help to manage diabetes while thyroid gland disorders can also be treated with drugs or surgery.


Self care for autoimmune diseases

Check with your physiotherapist and learn the exercises that would reduce pain, stiffness and weakness in muscles and joints

You can perform therapeutic yoga under the guidance of a trainer to control the disease. Ayurvedic treatments and massage therapies also help managing painful symptoms.

Eat a balanced healthy diet rich in vitamins, omega 3 fats, minerals and antioxidants. Follow the diet plan suggested by your doctor

Protect yourself from bacterial infections, allergens, chemicals, and other triggers by all means.

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: March 16, 2014

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