The primary function of the body’s immune system is to safeguard the body against infection and disease. In healthy individuals, the immune system would be highly capable of recognizing infectious organisms such as viruses and bacteria as foreign intruders and consequently ward them off. In some individuals, however, their immune system isn’t capable of functioning correctly, which leads it to mistake even healthy tissues as foreign attackers, and attacks healthy tissues as well. When this happens, it could result in various conditions commonly called autoimmune diseases that could impact different body areas.
Who Gets Autoimmune Diseases?
According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc., AARDA, about 23.5 million individuals in the U.S. alone suffer from an autoimmune disease. The problem is the cause of most autoimmune diseases is still not known, just that infections, a Western diet, and chemicals exposure are common among individuals with autoimmune diseases.
An experienced endocrinologist from a well-known wellness center in Logan, RedRiver Health and Wellness Center notes that while anyone could develop an autoimmune disease, some individuals have an increased risk of developing it more than others. These individuals include females of childbearing age and those that are of Hispanic, Native American, and African-American descent. Having a family history of autoimmune diseases increases the risk of developing it as well.
What are Common Autoimmune Diseases?
Currently, there are over 80 different kinds of known autoimmune diseases, with the following being the most common:
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – This occurs when the thyroid gland attacked by the immune system, resulting in inflammation of the gland, which in turn leads to an underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism.
- Graves Disease – This kind of autoimmune disease causes the thyroid gland to be hyperactive.
- Type 1 Diabetes – This occurs when the pancreas, responsible for producing insulin, is attacked by the immune system.
- Lupus or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus – With lupus, the immune system attacks the antibodies it produces, which leads to inflammation, damaged organs and joints, sun sensitivity, and rashes.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis – In RA, the joints are attacked by the immune system, leading to joint stiffness, redness, soreness, and warmth.
- Multiple Sclerosis – In MS, the immune system attacks the myelin sheath, which is the protective coating surrounding the nerve cells. This results in affecting the sending and receiving of messages between the body and the brain.
Are Autoimmune Diseases Curable?
Unfortunately, autoimmune diseases are not curable, but they could be managed given the proper treatment plan. Symptoms typically come and go, and could flare up, meaning that they might occur suddenly and require medical attention right away. The specific treatment plan would depend on the particular disease. In most cases, however, the most vital goal is to ease inflammation. Taking medications could also help manage the disease, and depending on the circumstances, could even slow down the disease’s progression.
Also, most treatment plans for managing autoimmune diseases involve lifestyle changes including a healthy diet, ample rest, regular exercise, and stress management techniques. The important thing is to get an accurate diagnosis so that you could address your symptoms and manage the disease properly.