Autoimmune disease is an epidemic of the modern era; AARDA says that there are 50 million Americans who are affected by one type of autoimmune disease or another. Every year the National Institutes of Health spend 591 million dollars on autoimmune disease research and it is the most popular health topic which is requested by callers at the national women’s health information center. The scale of this disease is simply, mammoth.
If you have been following our series on autoimmune diseases then you must already know this, but if you don’t, here’s a quick recap: Autoimmune diseases are a term used to describe a league of about 80 recognized diseases which occur when your immune system attacks part of your own body. The reasons for the immune system misfire are still unknown to doctors, but thankfully, the treatments are not unknown.
There are many different types of autoimmune disease, but in this article, we will concern ourselves with the five most common types of autoimmune diseases, which are: (i) Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (ii) Type I Diabetes (iii) Arthritis (iv) Graves’ Disease
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus:
Simply known as Lupus, this disease occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in different parts of your body. It’s a type of inflammation disease with alternate phases of worse and mild symptoms. Currently, there are 1.5 million Americans with this disease according to the Lupus Foundation of America; however, the foundation believes that the actual numbers are higher and there are many cases where this disease goes undiagnosed.
Being a disease-causing inflammation, the common symptoms of Lupus includes:
- Severe Fatigue
- Joint Pain
- Hair Loss
- Blood Clotting Problems
- Joint Swelling
The disease can also attack the digestive tract, heart or the skin which might cause a range of other symptoms to occur such as bleeding rectum, irregular heart rates, rashes, etc.
Treatment for Lupus:
While there is no permanent cure, there are remedies to ease the symptoms. The remedies vary in the symptoms themselves and include:
- Anti-inflammation medications, these are prescribed to people usually with joint pain and stiffness.
- Steroid creams for patients with rashes.
- Antimalarial drugs for people with skin and joint problems due to SLE.
- In rare and severe cases, targeted immune system agents are also used to decrease the immune system activity.
Type I Diabetes:
There are two main types of diabetes out there, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, while type 2 diabetes is not an autoimmune disease, Type 1 Diabetes is. Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in our pancreas. There are as many as 30.3 million people in the United States with diabetes and while 93 percent people have type 2 diabetes, 7 percent people suffer from type 1 diabetes.
The most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:
- Increased Thirst
- Frequent Urination
- Bedwetting in Children who previously did not use to do that.
- Extreme Hunger
- Unintended Weight Loss
- Irritability and other Mood Changes
- Blurred Vision
- Unexplained Weakness
There is no cure for type 1 diabetes. The treatments are there to reduce the symptoms; patients are regularly injected with insulin.
Arthritis is basically an inflammation that occurs in the joints. It’s a tricky disease since there are more than 100 types of arthritis, all with different causes and treatment methods; however, two of the most common forms of arthritis include Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. An estimated 12.1 percent of the U.S. population which accounts for nearly 21 million Americans of the age 25 and over suffer from osteoarthritis, meanwhile, 1.3 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease; it’s basically caused by genetics and is exacerbated by an infection or injury to the joints. Meanwhile, Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the immune system attacks the synovium, which is a soft tissue in the joints which produces a fluid that lubricates the joints and nourishes the cartilage.
As an inflammation of the joints, the most common symptoms of arthritis include:
- Joint Pain
- Joint Stiffness
- Joint Swelling
- Redness of the Skin around joints
- Mild or slight consistent fever
- Loss of appetite due to the inflammation caused by the immune system in your digestive tracts.
There is no permanent cure for arthritis; the main objective is to reduce the pain being experienced by the patient and to prevent additional damage to the joints. While some people find ice or heating pads to offer redemption, others use mobility assistance devices such as canes or walkers to take the pressure off their joints.
Common medications for patients with arthritis include: Analgesics to decrease the pain, but does not help with the inflammation.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammation drugs such as ibuprofen help control the pain and the inflammation.
Other immunosuppressant like prednisone is also prescribed to attack the immune system and help reduce the inflammation.
Graves disease causes your thyroid gland to produce too much of the thyroid hormone in your body. This causes a condition called hyperthyroidism. In graves’ disease, the body’s immune system produces antibodies called immunoglobulins. These are thyroid stimulants which attach themselves to healthy thyroid cells and cause your thyroid gland to produce too much thyroid hormone.
The Most common symptoms of Graves’ disease include:
- Hand Tremors
- Weight Loss
- Intolerance to Heat
- Muscle Weakness
- Sleeping Difficulties
There are three treatment options for Graves’ disease:
- Anti-Thyroid Drugs: Drugs such as propylthiouracil or methimazole are prescribed to reduce the effects of your symptoms.
- Radioiodine Therapy: This treatment requires you to take doses of the radioactive iodine-131 in the pill form.
- Thyroid Surgery: This is the road less taken, but is done if thyroid cancer is suspected or if you are a pregnant woman who cannot take anti-thyroid drugs.