Autoimmune means“immunity against the self.” You develop autoimmune disease when your immune system which defends your body against disease decides that your healthy cells are foreign. Then they start to attack the healthy cells.
Usually, when an invader enters your body, like a bacteria or cold virus, your immune system, tries to identify, kill and eliminate the intruders.
The autoimmune disease can affect one or many different types of the body tissue, depending on the kind. Abnormal organ growth or changes in the organ function may also be the result of autoimmune disease.
There are as many as 80 types of autoimmune diseases. Most of them have similar symptoms which make it hard to diagnose. There’s also a possibility that you can have more than one disease at the same time.
Autoimmune disease fluctuates between periods of remission and flare-ups. At present, there is no curative therapy for this disease. Treatment procedure includes relieving symptoms and preventing complications.
Your immune system is a network of cells and tissues spread throughout your body. They defend you from invasion and infection. It may be of two parts acquired and innate immunity.
Acquired immune system. It develops as a person grows. The acquired immune system remembers invaders and fights them when they come back. Foreign invaders provoke your body, to activate immune cells against the invaders. Your cells start to produce proteins called antibodies. The antibodies attach themselves to the intruder attacks them and kills them.
Innate immune system. This primitive immune system activates white blood cells to destroy invaders, without using antibodies.
In the case of an autoimmune reaction, your antibodies and white blood cell start to target your body’s healthy tissue, signaling the body to attack them.
Signs of Autoimmune Disease
The classic symptom of the autoimmune disease is inflammation. It can cause heat, redness, pain, and swelling. You develop the disease depending on which part of your body gets targeted.
Many autoimmune diseases don’t just attack one part of the body. For example, SLE can affect joints, skin, kidneys, nerves, heart, blood vessels and more. Type 1 diabetes affects your eyes, glands, muscles, kidneys and more.
List of Autoimmune Diseases
Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
- Addison’s disease
- Alopecia areata
- Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Celiac disease
- Diabetes (type 1)
- Some forms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis
- Graves’ disease
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
- Myasthenia gravis
- Certain kindsof myocarditis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Pernicious anemia
- Polyarteritis nodosa
- Primary biliary cirrhosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Scleroderma/systemic sclerosis
- Sjögren’s syndrome
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Some types of thyroiditis
- Some types of uveitis
- Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s)
Addison’s disease. Adrenal hormone insufficiency is a distinctive feature of Addison’s disease. It can lead to muscle weakness and fatigue, weight loss, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, irritability, nausea, and depression.
Alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is a kind of hair loss. It occurs when your immune system mistakingly attacks your hair follicles. The damage to the hair follicle is not permanent.
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Hemolytic anemia is a group of rare blood disorders that occurs when your body attacks red blood cells more rapidly as it produces them.
Autoimmune hepatitis. Autoimmune hepatitis is a liver inflammation, occurs when your body’s immune system turns against the liver cells. Environmental and genetic factors appear to interact overtime in triggering the disease.
Celiac disease. Celiac disease is a reaction to gluten. Gluten is present in rye,wheat, and barley.It causes damage to the lining of the small intestine.
Dermatomyositis. It (dur-much-toe-my-uh-SY-tis) is an uncommon inflammatory disease marked by muscle weakness and a distinctive skin rash. The condition can affect adults and children.
Diabetes (type 1). Once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, type 1 diabetes is a long-term disease in which your pancreas does not produce any insulin or secretes a small amount of it.
Some forms of Juvenile idiopathic arthritis. JIA is the common type of arthritis often prevalent in children. In this disease your immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s tissues, causing inflammation in joints, and potentially other areas of the body.“Idiopathic” means of unknown origin.
Glomerulonephritis. It(glue-mer-u-low-nuh-FRY-tis) is the inflammation of the tiny filters in your kidneys. Glomeruli remove excess fluid, electrolytes, and waste from your kidneys and pass them into your urine. It can come suddenly or gradually.
Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease occurs due to the over production of thyroid hormones. It is due to the autoimmune reaction of your body.
Guillain-Barré syndrome. Guillain-Barre (gee-YAH-buh-RAY) is a rare disorder where your body’s immune system attacks your nerves. Weakness and tingling sensation can quickly spread paralyzing your whole body.
Hashimoto’s disease. The inflammation of the thyroid gland causes Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis often results in a goiter. As you may be aware, goiter is the enlargement of the thyroid gland which may be visible as a bulge in the neck. It causes fatigue, weight gain, depression, muscle weakness, cold sensitivity, dry hair and skin, and constipation.
Inflammatory bowel disease. This condition refers to the group of inflammatory diseases that affects the colon and small intestine.
Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. ITP is a disorder that leads to quick or excessive bruising or bleeding. Excessive bleeding results from unusually low levels of platelets.
Myasthenia gravis. Myasthenia gravis (my-us-THEE-nee-uh GRAY-vis) is characterized by rapid fatigue and weakness of any of the muscles under your voluntary control. Breakdown of communication between muscles and nerves results in this condition.
Some forms of myocarditis. It is the inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium). It often has no symptoms.
Multiple sclerosis. MS is a possibly disabling disease of the brain and the spinal cord. The immune system attacks the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers. This autoimmune condition causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body.
Pemphigus/pemphigoid. It is a group of sub epidermal, blistering autoimmune diseases that mainly affects your skin, especially the groin, lower abdomen, and flexor surfaces of the extremities. Here, auto antibodies (anti-BPA-2 and anti-BPA-1) gets directed against the basal layer of the epidermis and mucosa.
Pernicious anemia. This condition causes a decrease in red blood cells.Pernicious anemia occurs when the intestine cannot properly absorb the vitamin B12.
Polyarteritis nodosa. PAN is a systemic vasculitis, characterized by necrotizing (death of all the cells in the tissue) inflammatory lesions, which affects medium-sized and small muscular arteries.
Polymyositis. PM (pol-e-my-o-SY-tis) is a type of chronic inflammation in muscles that cause muscle weakness affecting both sides of your body. It commonly affects adults in their 30’s, 40’s or 50’s.
Primary biliary cirrhosis. PBC is a disease in your liver where the bile ducts get slowly destroyed. When bile ducts are damaged, harmful substances tend to build up in your liver, causing irreversible scarring of liver tissue.
Psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease where the skin cells rapidly multiply up to ten times faster than normal. When the underlying cells reach your skin’s surface and die, their sheer volume causes raised, red plaques, covered with white scales.
Raynaud’s phenomenon. People with this disease have a problem with blood flow. It results in numbness, discoloration, tingling of the fingers, toes, and the tip of the nose, with exposure to cold temperature.
Rheumatoid arthritis. RA is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects more than just your joints. Lungs, blood vessels, skin, heart, and eyes may also get affected.
Scleroderma/systemic sclerosis. Scleroderma or systemic sclerosis is a chronic disease that affects your connective tissue. Hardening of your skin is one of the most visible manifestations of the disease.
Sjögren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s (SHOW-grins) syndrome is an immune system disorder.It causes dry eyes and dry mouth. It accompanies other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. This condition affects the mucus glands and moisture-secreting glands of your eyes and mouth resulting in decreased saliva and tears.
Systemic lupus erythematosus. SLE is an autoimmune disease. Your body’s immune system mistakenly fights its own body’s healthy tissue. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs.
Some forms of thyroiditis. Thyroiditis occurs when there is an attack on your thyroid. It causes inflammation and damage to your thyroid cells. It affects women more frequently than men.
Some forms of uveitis. It is a group of inflammatory diseases that produces swelling and destroys eye tissue. These conditions can slightly reduce vision or cause severe vision loss.
Vitiligo. Vitiligo (vit-ih-LIE-go) is a disease that causes loss of skin color in blotches. It is unpredictable and affects the skin on any part of your body. It may also affect hair and inside of the mouth.
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s). It is an uncommon disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels, in your nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, and kidney. This disease slows down blood flow to some of your organs.
The treatment depends on the type of disease. The primary goal is to reduce inflammation.
Who Gets Autoimmune Diseases?
Although autoimmune disease affects anyone at any age, here are some populations who may be at a greater risk
- Women of childbearing age (approximately 14-44 years)
- People with a family history of autoimmune disease
- Environmental factors such as sunlight, chemicals or solvents, and viral and bacterial infections.
- People or individual races or ethnic backgrounds. For example, type 1 diabetes is more prevalent among Caucasians. Asian, African American, Hispanic and Native American people suffer a more severe form of lupus.
What Causes Autoimmune Diseases?
Hereditary factors and genetics are thought to be contributors to autoimmune disease because it often runs in families.Here are some other theories being questioned and studied.
- Bacteria or virus
- chemical irritants
- some drugs
- environmental irritants
- certain hair dyes
- certain foods
It is a general theory that some outside agent is necessary to start the process of autoimmune disease. Here is a list of possibly identified reasons
- Scleroderma: silica exposure
- Lupus: hair dye and certain drugs, smoking
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: mycoplasmas, smoking
- Diabetes: gluten, Coxsackie virus
- Thyroid: smoking
- Multiple Sclerosis: hepatitis B infection
- Epstein-Barr: measles virus
Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease
Often the first recognizable symptoms of autoimmune disease can be
- Low-grade fever
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle aches
- Discoloration, numbness, and tingling in feet and hands
- Dry eyes or mouth
- Inflammation, which can cause redness, heat, pain, and swelling
- Unexplained hair loss
- Dry eyes or mouth
- Sores in the mouth or nose
- Skin Rashes
- Repeated miscarriages
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain, mucus or blood in your stool, diarrhea or mouth ulcers
- Shortness of breath or heart palpitations
How To Alleviate The Symptoms Of Autoimmune Disease
- Drink lots of water
- Get regular and gentle exercise
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet
- Take proper rest
- Take vitamin supplements
- If you’re photosensitive limit your sun exposure
- Reduce your stress levels
- Avoid triggers that may cause flare-ups
- Take pain medicine that your doctor gave you
- If your joints are affected take anti-inflammatory medication
- Take immunosuppressive medication as prescribed by your doctor
Alternative therapies are also useful for pain relief and stress management. They include
- Herbal remedies
Your body is a composite, interconnected web of genius biochemistry. You may be aware that there are no magic pills to cure autoimmune diseases. These tools will help you to reverse your autoimmune disease.
First, try to know the level of your gut permeability and try to heal your gut naturally. Depending on your specific autoimmune conditions try to know the levels of your antibodies. It is wise to avoid gluten because it links up with many autoimmune conditions.
Molecular mimicry occurs when your body confuses its tissues with the similar proteins found in some foods. So try to find your cross-reactive foods and just avoid them.
People suffering from autoimmune conditions can also have altered detoxification pathways. So make detoxification a regular practice. Add turmeric and green tea into your diet. These foods dampen the autoimmune response in your body, especially the brain.
Avoid refined table salt, because it aggravates and increases some autoimmune conditions. Chronic stress is like gasoline for an autoimmune condition, to manage stress.
Finally, try to increase your glutathione levels, include lots of sulfur-rich veggies such as cabbage, onion, and broccoli. They help in methylation, a biochemical pathway that produces glutathione naturally.
Be known that autoimmune disease is not curable, but you can effectively manage it. Proper management practices make it possible to reverse the autoimmune disease. It helps you lead a healthy and vibrant life.