As we all know, one of the primary responsibility of the immune system is the fighting or guarding against germs like bacteria and viruses that comes to our bodies. It recognizes our bodies cells and guards against anti body’s cells or foreign invaders. When it senses these foreign invaders, it sends out an army of fighter cells to attack them. The immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own body cells.
WHAT IS AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body instead of attacking foreign invaders. That is, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your skin or joints, as foreign. It then releases fighters (proteins) called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells.
Statistics has show that some autoimmune diseases target only one organ. E.g, Type 1 diabetes that damages the pancreas. Other diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), affect the whole body.
CAUSES OF AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE
Doctors have not been able to conclude on clear cut causes of autoimmune disease, however, people are still experiencing it and some has high probability of experience it than others.
Some autoimmune diseases are more common in certain ethnic groups. For example, lupus affects more African-American and Hispanic people than Caucasians. While Certain autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus, run in some families. However, it should be noted that not every family member will necessarily have the same disease, but they inherit a susceptibility to an autoimmune condition.
A study carried out in 2014 revealed that women has a higher rate of experienceing autoimmune disease than men. What researchers has to say now is that the disease is probably cause by western diet, eating high-fat foods, high sugar, and environmental factors like infections and exposure to chemicals or solvents. But there are still to come out with real proves.
SOME COMMON AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE INCLUDE:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Type 1 diabetes
- Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Graves’ disease
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Autoimmune vasculitis
- Celiac disease
- Pernicious anemia etc
These are just a few and the most common autoimmune disease. There are more than 50 autoimmune diseases but the most important thing now is to know and identify the symptoms and seek for better ways to manage or prevent them.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE.
- Trouble concentrating
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes
- Achy muscles
- Swelling and redness
- Low-grade fever
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
Disease like Type 1 diabetes which are individual diseases may have their own unique symptoms such as extreme thirst, weight loss, and fatigue while IBD causes belly pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
NB. Symptoms like fatigue, muscle aches, swelling, and redness could be signs of an autoimmune disease and the symptoms might come and go over time.
DO YOU NEED TO SEE THE DOCTOR IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING THESE SYMPTOMS?
Yes it is necessary to see a doctor or medical specialist if you are constantly experiencing these symptoms. However no single doctor or single test can diagnose most autoimmune diseases. Your doctor will use a combination of tests and a review of your symptoms and physical examination in collaboration with other specialists to diagnose you.
The primary test that doctors use when symptoms suggest an autoimmune disease is the antinuclear antibody tests (ANA). A positive test means you may have one of these diseases, but it won’t confirm exactly or immediately which one you have or if you have one for sure.
Other tests look for specific autoantibodies produced in certain autoimmune diseases. The doctors might also do nonspecific tests to check for the inflammation these diseases produce in the body.
ARE THERE ANY TREATMENT FOR AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE?
As of now, there are no clear cut treatments for autoimmune disease. What doctors do is to control the overactive immune response and bring down inflammation or at least reduce pain and inflammation. Prescriptions are given to relieve symptoms like pain, swelling, fatigue, and skin rashes, while eating a well-balanced and healthy diet, getting regular exercise are of added advantage.
To conclude, I will say they exist so many different autoimmune diseases and their symptoms often overlap, making them hard to diagnose.Autoimmune diseases are more common in women than men, and they often run in families.
Primarily, blood tests that look for autoantibodies help doctors to diagnose these conditions and treatments include medications which are responsible for calming the overactive immune response and bring down inflammation in the body.