Know about these Autoimmune Diseases

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Autoimmune diseases are related to conditions whereby an immune system mistakenly attacks the body.

The immune system is structured to protect the body from foreign bodies like germs (bacteria and viruses), so when it senses such foreign bodies, it attacks with an army of protective cells.

In the case of autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakes parts of the body as foreign and releases a protein called the autoantibody that attacks the healthy cells.

However some autoimmune diseases usually have a target organ; for example, Type 1 diabetes destroys the pancreas.

The causes of auto immune diseases are yet unknown. Studies have shown that females are more likely to come down with the condition to males in a 2:1 ratio. Some autoimmune diseases are more common to certain ethnic groups than others. It could also be susceptible in particular families. As was said earlier, the particular causes are not known but genetics, diet, infections, and exposure to certain chemicals might be risk factors.

Autoimmune Diseases known today

More than 80 autoimmune diseases are known today. Here are a few of them;

  • Type 1 diabetes

The immune system attacks and damages the insulin-producing pancreas which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. High blood sugar leads to destruction of blood vessels and in the long run, the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

In this case, the immune system attacks the joints and causes redness, warmth and stiffness in the joints.

  • Multiple sclerosis

This autoimmune disease damages the myelin sheath, a protective coating that surrounds the nerve cells. In the CNS(Central Nervous System), the myelin sheath damage slows down the transmission speed of messages/signals between the brain and the spinal cord, to and fro the body. The damage causes symptoms like weakness, balance issues, numbness and trouble walking.

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

SLE was earlier described as a skin disease because of the rashes it produces. The systemic form affects several organs, including the heart, joints, kidneys and brain. Joint pain, fatigue and rashes are commonly associated symptoms.

  • Graves’ disease

The thyroid gland is attacked causing it produce an overly excess amount of its hormones. Having too much of these hormones (whose function is metabolism) usually results in symptoms like nervousness, a fast heartbeat, heat intolerance and weight loss. A potential symptom is bulging eyes (exophthalmos).

  • Autoimmune vasculitis

It occurs when blood vessels are attacked by the immune system. The inflammation caused by this attack narrows the arteries and veins, reducing proper blood flow through them.

  • Myasthenia gravis

One of the severe autoimmune diseases, it affects nerve impulses that assist the brain to control the muscles. When communication between nerves and muscles is broken, signals can’t be sent to the muscles. A very common symptom is muscle weakness that worsens with activity and improves with rest. Muscles that control swallowing, eyelid opening, eye movements and facial movements are often involved.

General early symptoms of autoimmune diseases include hair loss, skin rashes, low-grade fever, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, trouble with concentration, fatigue,swelling and redness, and achy muscles.

The main treatment for autoimmune diseases is administration of medications that reduce inflammation and calm the overactive immune system response. Blood tests that check for autoantibodies can help in the diagnosis of these conditions. Treatments also help to relieve symptoms.

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