Autoimmune Disorder & its daily problems?
Our immune system protects us against germs such as bacteria and viruses. Once it becomes aware of foreign bodies, it dispatches numerous cells to deal with them. Autoimmune disorders occur when the body’s immune system becomes unable to differentiate between the body’s cells, for example the joints and skin, and these foreign and invasive cells.
As a result, normal cells begin to be attacked. At present, there are around eighty different autoimmune disorders that affect different body parts. Symptoms of autoimmune disorders vary in their severity. Some people may experience severe symptoms while others may receive only mild ones. The symptoms that a particular person receives may depend on such factors as genetics and personal health.
The main autoimmune disorders and diseases that are diagnosed today are rheumatoid arthritis which attacks the joints, psoriasis which produces thick and scaly patches on the skin, psoriatic arthritis which is a specific form of arthritis that people with psoriasis are susceptible to, lupus which particularly damages the joints, skin and organs and various thyroid diseases including hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism
In spite of the vast number of autoimmune disorders that have been identified, many of them share similar symptoms. The most common symptoms include fatigue, joint pain and swelling, problems with the skin, abdominal pain, digestive issues, a recurring fever and swelling in the glands.
One of the main problems with diagnosing an autoimmune disorder is that their most noticeable symptoms are also symptoms of other common illnesses and so reaching a diagnosis isn’t always a straightforward matter.
In addition, there is no single test that can identify whether someone is suffering from an autoimmune disorder or not. Certain symptoms must be combined with certain blood markers and occasionally a tissue biopsy may be required as well. Despite the difficulty of the diagnostic process, if you suddenly experience fatigue or stiffness in your joints, especially if you have hitherto been healthy, you should not ignore them. Going to see your GP and asking him or her to take a closer look will either confirm the presence of an autoimmune disorder or dispel them.
Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis all increase the risk of developing heart disease. It’s always a good idea to do all you can to reduce the risk of heart disease, but if you have any of these three disorders, the good idea becomes an essential one. You should seek advice from your GP on what steps are the most appropriate for you to take. You may be advised to keep both your blood pressure and levels of cholesterol at a healthy rate, eat a nutritious diet or take regular exercise or perhaps a combination of these.
Taking such steps can also help to reduce the symptoms of autoimmune disease if you have developed one. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and maintaining it can be difficult, but if you are living with an autoimmune disease, it can be the key to keeping the symptoms under control. Additionally, depending on the type of autoimmune disorder you contract, you may be referred to a rheumatologist who will treat any diseases of the joint that you may have or an endocrinologist who specialises in treating gland conditions such as Graves’ disease.
If you have a skin condition such as psoriasis, you will be referred to a dermatologist. There is no cure for autoimmune disorders and treatments can only control the overactive immune system and relieve symptoms such as pain, swelling and skin rashes. Certain medications are available to assist with this.
The most common of these are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also called NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen and naproxen and immunosuppressant drugs that either suppress or reduce the immune system’s strength.
The exact cause of autoimmune disorders remains unknown, but strong theories have been put forward that point to infection or injury causing the immune system to attack the body. What is known is that there are several risk factors that can increase your chances of contracting one of these disorders.
For example, genetics. Some disorders such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, or ME, are known to be hereditary. While having relatives affected by such disorders increases the likelihood of contracting them yourself, it is by no means certain that this will happen. Another risk factor is weight, especially where the likes of rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are concerned. It has been theorised that excess weight puts extra stress and pressure on joints and that fat tissue produces substances that encourage inflammation.
Research indicates that smoking can be linked to some autoimmune disorders such as lupus, MS and hypothyroidism. Even certain types of medication, such as antibiotics and several medications that treat blood pressure can bring on drug-induced lupus. This is often more benign than its non-drug induced counterpart. It has also been discovered that medications that lower cholesterol can bring about statin-induced myopathy which weakens the muscles.
However, you should never stop taking any form of medication without first talking things over with your GP. Another theory that has been put forward for the cause of autoimmune disorders has been termed the hygiene hypothesis. This hypothesis suggests that because of the wide range of vaccinations and antiseptics in existence today, people don’t come into contact with as many germs as previous generations did. This lack of exposure could lead to the body’s immune system becoming prone to overreaction to harmless cells.
Autoimmune disorders are lifelong conditions that can nonetheless be managed through a variety of methods including exercise, a healthy lifestyle, medication and specialist treatments. The initial diagnosis may not be a straightforward procedure, but if you experience symptoms such as fatigue or stiff joints, you should always have them looked at by your GP to be on the safe side. With the right sort of treatment, a normal and full life can still be lived.
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