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An Overview of Autoimmune Disease

An autoimmune disease is said to occur when the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks the cells and tissues of the body, considering them to be a threat. This HealthHearty write-up provides information about this condition.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Feb 14, 2018
The immune system of the body comprises certain organs, immune cells, proteins, and substances that help prevent infections. When there are abnormalities in the immune cells or other components of the immune system, one is likely to become susceptible to infections. Under such circumstances, one is diagnosed with an immunodeficiency disease. At times, the abnormalities that lead to primary immunodeficiency diseases could also lead to an abnormal immune response. In some cases, such an immune response could give rise to autoimmunity, wherein the immune system attacks the body.
The purpose of the immune system of the body is to protect the body from external agents that could potentially harm it. These external agents include environmental irritants, abnormal body cells, and pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc. When a person is affected by an autoimmune disease, the immune system is unable to distinguish between these external agents and the body's own cells and tissues. As a result, the immune system attacks harmless cells and tissues within the body.
While genetic factors could make one susceptible to such diseases, it's a known fact that these conditions are more common in women. Almost 80% of the people affected by these disorders are women.
Autoimmune Disorders
The abnormal immune response could be directed against a specific organ, cells, or tissues. Some of the commonly affected areas include endocrine glands such as thyroid or pancreas, connective tissues, joints, muscles, skin, red blood cells, blood vessels, etc. The symptoms would vary, depending on the part of the body that is attacked by the immune system. Such an abnormal immune response could also make one susceptible to infections. Hereditary or genetics, environmental toxins, external viruses, weakening of the immune system due to excessive substance abuse, excessive stress could be triggers. Here's a list of common autoimmune conditions:
Rheumatoid arthritis
Type 1 diabetes
➠ Psoriasis
Addison's disease
Celiac disease - sprue (gluten-sensitive enteropathy)
Graves' disease
Hashimoto's thyroiditis
Multiple sclerosis
Myasthenia gravis
Pernicious anemia
Reactive arthritis
Sjogren syndrome
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Besides a physical examination and the analysis of the medical history of the patient, certain diagnostic tests can help in diagnosing such conditions. These tests include:
 ntinuclear antibody tests
Autoantibody tests
Comprehensive metabolic panel
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
C-reactive protein (CRP)
➠ Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
There is no cure for autoimmune disorders. The treatment basically involves the use of immunosuppressants that suppress the abnormal immune response of the immune system. Also, other changes need to be made to make up for the loss of nutrients or substances that has been caused by the autoimmune disease. So, nutritional supplements and other drugs might be prescribed for alleviating the other symptoms that might be experienced by the affected individual. Depending on the condition of the patient, dietary supplements, analgesics, or anti-inflammatory drugs, etc., might be prescribed.
On a concluding note, the symptoms of an autoimmune disease can be managed with the help of drugs. A person affected by such a condition will experience periods of remission (when the symptoms are minimal) or flare-ups (when the symptoms worsen). Thus, it is essential to follow the doctor's advice, and go for regular checkups. Also, the patient must try not to get stressed, as stress can trigger flare-ups.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert. 
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