Autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s defense mechanism attacks its own cells. Normally, this defense mechanism helps to guard against foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses that attack the body. However, in autoimmune disorders the immune system has trouble telling the difference between foreign cells and self. These disorders are treated by General Physician in Karachi.
Read on to know more about autoimmune disorder, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options:
What are autoimmune disorders?
As mentioned before, in normal circumstances, the immune system of the body helps to protect against bacteria, viruses and parasitic infestation. In autoimmune disorders, the immune system accidentally attacks its own cells instead of protecting it. There are over 100 cases of autoimmune diseases, some involving production of autoantibodies, while others having a more localized action.
The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is not understood yet. Studies show that autoimmune disorders have higher prevalence in women, in comparison to men. Often, these women start having autoimmune disorders during childbearing age, and are more common in certain ethnicities. Prevalence studies show that these disorders have a genetic component as well and run in families.
Researchers believe that environmental factors including infections, exposure to chemicals and solvents can have causative role in autoimmune disorders. Another suspect of autoimmune disorders is ‘Western diet’ with diet rich in high fat, sugar and highly processed foods. Such foods are linked to excessive inflammation which in turn can start an immune response.
What are the symptoms of autoimmune disorders?
The symptoms of autoimmune disorders can be categorized according to the organ involved:
Diseases of the joint and muscles
- Joint pain
- Muscle stiffness
- Muscle aches
- Generalized inflammation
Diseases of the skin
- Dry mouth
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
Diseases of the digestive tract
- Acid reflux
- Food sensitivities
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in stool
- Swollen glands
- Weight gain
Diseases of the nervous system
- Memory problems
- Numbness and tingling
- Blurred vision
What are the common autoimmune disorders?
Some of the common autoimmune disorders include:
- Type 1 diabetes: this is by far the commonest autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Subsequently, there is little insulin produced and the blood sugar level is high, which can cause end organ and vascular damage.
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): in this disorder, the immune system attacks the joints, causing soreness, redness and stiffness of joints. RA can start as early as 30 in susceptible individuals.
- Psoriasis: normally, the skin cells are shed when they complete a growth cycle. However, in psoriasis, the skin cells multiply too quickly and buildup in the form of patches and silver-white scaly plaques. If psoriasis involves the joints, there can be joint pain, stiffness and swelling, a condition called psoriatic arthritis.
- Inflammatory bowel disease: there are two types of inflammatory bowel diseases: Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis. In these disorders, there is inflammation of the lining of the gut causing pain and blood in the stool.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): what starts as a skin disease and rash later on takes a systemic form in SLE. Many organs are affected in this disorder, including the joints, kidneys, heart and brain. The most common symptoms of SLE include fatigue, rashes and joint pain.
- Graves’ disease: this is the disease of the thyroid gland in which autoantibodies attack and stimulate the thyroid gland. With too much stimulation of the thyroid gland, excessive hormones are produced leading to symptoms like heat intolerance, fast heartbeat, insomnia and weight loss.
- Addison’s disease: this is the disease of the adrenal glands which produces the essential hormones including cortisol, androgens and aldosterone. The symptoms of Addison’s present with weakness, weight loss, hypoglycemia and fatigue.
How are autoimmune disorders diagnosed?
The diagnosis of autoimmune disorders is based on thorough history and examination. In addition, investigations and blood tests are done to check for autoimmune diseases, including:
- Antinuclear antibody test (ANA)
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
- Complete blood count (CBC)
What are the treatment options for autoimmune disorders?
The treatment options for autoimmune disorders, according to experts at Patel Hospital include:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Insulin injections