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Auto-Immune Diseases: Everything You Need To Know!

About 80-100 variants of auto-immune diseases worldwide cause morbidity and mortality in 5-10% of the global population.

You might get a brief idea of what auto-immune diseases are from their name itself. These diseases are caused when the immune system attacks your body instead of protecting it. In the past few years, we have witnessed an increasing number of cases of auto-immune diseases. However, the reason behind this rise is yet to be found.

You might have seen the news of various celebrities suffering from these disorders. For example, Samantha Ruth Prabhu. She recently took to her social media platform to share her struggles with an auto-immune disease, Myositis. It is a rare type of auto immune disorder in which muscles get very weak because of this disorder. You might find it difficult to walk or feel so tired that you might trip.

Auto-immune diseases are not rare anymore. An increasing number of people are suffering from these disorders. Interested to know more about what auto-immune diseases are, their symptoms, common causes, how they affect life, and whether they can be cured? Read ahead to find out.

What are Auto-immune diseases?

The immune system consists of organs and cells that prevent the body from cancer cells, bacteria, parasites, and viruses. This system protects your body from infections and diseases by fighting off any foreign object.

Although this system protects you from diseases, in some individuals, it might turn against them. This causes auto-immune diseases. In such disorders, the immune system attacks the healthy cells, tissues, and organs of the body and destroys them.

  • It might result in abnormal growth of an organ.

  • Change in the function of one or more organs or glands (thyroid, pancreas, etc.).

  • Self-destruction of body tissue, blood vessels, or cells.

There are about 80-100 known auto-immune diseases. Some common ones are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease. Several studies suggest that women are at a higher risk of developing these diseases than men.

Around 78% of the individuals affected with auto-immune disorders are women.

Auto-immune diseases are not limited to any specific body part and can affect any body organ and tissue. These diseases cause several symptoms based on their type.

Some Serious Auto Immune Diseases

  1. Addison Disease (when hormone-producing Adrenal glands are affected)

  2. Sjogren Syndrome (when tears & saliva-producing glands are destroyed)

  3. Celiac Disease (when gluten damages the inner lining of your small intestine)

  4. Inflammatory Myopathy (affects the inflammation, tissue damage, and swelling in the muscles sometimes followed by a rash)

  5. Hashimoto Disease & Graves Disease (leads to hypothyroidism & hyperthyroidism respectively)

  6. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) (affects the central nervous system)

  7. Myasthenia Gravis (affects the muscles and the nerves that control them)

  8. Pernicious Anemia (when your immune system directly attacks the cells or the protein that makes the inner lining of your stomach)

  9. Rheumatoid & Reactive Arthritis (multiple stages of inflammation of the joints)

  10. SLE (when the immune system attacks the healthy tissues of your immune system. It can be anything from the organs to the joints)

  11. Type I Diabetes (when your pancreas is affected)

The list definitely goes on and on.

Minor Symptoms that Lead up to Auto Immune Diseases

Want to tackle the disorder, right at the beginning? Here are some of the common symptoms of auto-immune diseases (that can help you catch the disorder in time,) depending on their kind, are-

Digestive tract auto-immune diseases symptoms:

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

  • Abdominal pain

  • Food sensitivities

  • Acid reflux

  • Bloating

  • Mucus or blood in stool

Nervous system auto-immune disease symptoms:

  • Insomnia

  • Memory issues

  • Migraines

  • Dizziness

  • Blurry vision

  • Headaches

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Lightheadedness

  • Tingling and numbing sensation

  • Increased confusion

  • Difficulty in thinking

Joints and muscles auto-immune disease symptoms:

  • Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness

  • Muscle pain

  • Muscle weakness

  • Inflammation

Skin auto-immune disease symptoms:

  • Itching

  • Rashes

  • Dry skin

  • Hair loss

  • Dry mouth

  • Dry eyes

Other auto-immune disease symptoms:

  • Fatigue

  • Chest pain

  • Short of breath

  • Temperature sensitivity

  • Fever

  • Pain

  • Swollen glands

  • Unexplained weight change

  • Irregular heartbeat

When these symptoms start getting worse & worse chances are you have caught one.

What are the common causes of Auto-Immune diseases?

As you are now familiar with auto-immune diseases, you might get curious to know what causes auto-immune diseases. This section of the post will help you learn about its causes.

Healthcare researchers haven’t yet confirmed the precise causes of auto-immune diseases. However, the following are some factors that increase the chances of an individual getting these diseases-

  • Exposure to toxins

  • Smoking

  • Some medications for blood pressure, statins, and antibiotics might cause these diseases. As a precaution, always consult your doctor regarding the side effects of your medicines.

  • Obesity

  • Infections

  • Individuals who have a family member with an auto-immune disease might inherit one from them.

  • People with one auto-immune disease are at higher risk of developing another.

Can we protect ourselves from them?

Prevention of auto-immune diseases is a common topic of curiosity among people today. But, unfortunately, protection from these diseases might not be possible. Based on some trusted studies, there are no definite steps that you can rely on to protect yourself from these diseases. But, healthcare experts suggest that making specific changes to lifestyles can reduce the risk of developing an auto-immune disorder. Some of these are-

  • Exercising regularly

  • Staying away from toxins

  • Getting rid of smoking habits

  • Consuming a healthy and balanced diet

  • Avoiding processed food

  • Maintain a healthy sleep cycle

Are they curable?

Another common concern regarding these diseases is whether they are curable or not. Presently, no cure for auto-immune diseases has been discovered. But, some medications help manage the symptoms of these diseases. These medications control the hyperactive responses of the immune system. Besides this, they also reduce inflammation and pain. Drugs used for reducing the symptoms of these disorders are-

  • Immune-suppressing medicines that help the body’s ability to fight the symptoms

  • Supplements to regulate or make up for the gland's function like thyroid or insulin.

  • Blood transfusion if the disorder affects your blood.

  • Drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen, which are Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Physical therapies to help with the movement of joints, muscles, or bones.

If your question is- Can auto-immune diseases be cured? Unfortunately, the answer is a NO. But, certain drugs provide relief from their symptoms like swelling, pain, skin rashes, and fatigue. Individuals suffering from these diseases are also advised to exercise and eat a balanced diet to feel better.

Life with auto-immune diseases- Are they manageable?

Managing life with auto-immune diseases can be challenging, but not always. Their symptoms might go into remission, where the individual might face minimum or no effects of the disease. However, they can also flare up and cause interruptions in daily life.

Living a normal life with an auto-immune is definitely possible. To make this happen, an individual must consult their healthcare specialist. These specialists will let you know about the best ways to manage the symptoms of your condition.

Final Thoughts

Auto-immune diseases develop when the immune system accidentally attacks healthy cells and organs. These diseases are not restricted to any specific body part and can occur in any organ. So, if you face any symptoms, it is essential to get them immediately checked. Early diagnosis and treatment help manage the disease and relieve symptoms.

Living a life with an auto-immune disease can be complicated. But, even after being incurable, managing a normal life with these diseases is possible. Certain drugs that control the symptoms of these disorders make them much easier to manage.

Noticing unusual symptoms in your body? Make sure to visit your doctor today. An early diagnosis can help you manage auto-immune diseases in the most efficient way possible.


The Author :

Dr. Sunil Khattri

+91 9811618704

Dr Sunil Khattri MBBS, MS(General Surgery), LLB, is a Medical doctor and is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India and National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi.

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