Ten autoimmune diseases you should know about

By People Daily
Thursday, January 14th, 2021
Man with plaque psoriasis who may use injectable drugs.
In summary

1. Lupus

People with lupus develop autoimmune antibodies that can attach to tissues throughout the body.

The joints, lungs, blood cells, nerves, and kidneys are commonly affected in lupus.

The symptoms include skin rash, shortness of breath, painful joints, lesions, chronic dry eyes, chronic dry mouth, headaches and in severe cases kidney failure.

Symptoms differ from person to person, hence it is one of the hardest diseases to diagnose.

Treatment often requires daily oral prednisone, a steroid that reduces immune system function. 

2. Multiple sclerosis

This is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves, resulting in nerve damage thereby disrupting communication between the brain and the body.

It has many different symptoms, which include vision loss, pain, fatigue and impaired coordination.

The symptoms, their severity and duration can vary from person to person. Physiotherapy and medication that suppress the immune system can help with symptoms, and slow disease progression. 

3. Rheumatoid arthritis

With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system produces antibodies that attach to the linings of joints, attacking them and causing inflammation, swelling, and pain.

If untreated, rheumatoid arthritis gradually causes permanent joint damage.

Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis can include various oral or injectable medications that reduce immune system over activity.

Cold and heat treatments, exercising and alternative medicine can also help manage the pain.

4. Type 1 diabetes mellitus

Here, the immune system produces antibodies, which attack and destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Only about five per cent of people with diabetes have type 1. It affects males and females equally and is usually diagnosed in children and young people.

One is at a higher risk of getting it if younger than 20 years, white or with a parent or sibling suffering from the same.

At diagnosis, people with type 1 diabetes require insulin injections to survive.

5. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a condition in which skin cells build up and form scales and itchy, dry patches on the skin, and at times nails and joints as a result of the immune system’s overreaction to triggers which include infections, stress and cold.

Treatment aims to remove scales and stop skin cells from growing so quickly.

Topical ointments, light therapy and medication are often used as effective treatments.

6. Vasculitis

With vasculitis, the immune system attacks and damages blood vessels of any body organ by either thickening or narrowing them.

This causes symptoms to vary from person to person as the pain could be anywhere in the body.

Some forms of vasculitis improve on their own while others require treatment.

Treatment includes reducing immune system activity, usually with prednisone or another corticosteroid.

7. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease is the umbrella term for two disorders which are; ulcerative colitis, which is characterised by inflammation and sores along the superficial lining of the colon and rectum, and Crohn’s disease, which is characterized by inflammation of the lining of the deeper layers of the digestive tract.

With IBD, the immune system attacks the lining of the intestines, causing episodes of diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgent bowel movements, abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss. Oral and injected immune-suppressing medicines can treat IBD.

8. Celiac disease

People with celiac disease can’t eat foods containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and other grain products.

When gluten is in the small intestine, the immune system attacks this part of the gastrointestinal tract and causes inflammation.

Symptoms include diarrhoea and abdominal pain. One is treated with drugs which dampen the autoimmune activity and advised to avoid gluten.

9. Graves’ disease

Here, the immune system produces antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland to release excess amounts of thyroid hormone into the blood.

Symptoms of Graves’ disease include bulging eyes as well as weight loss, nervousness, irritability, rapid heart rate, weakness, and brittle hair.

Destruction or removal of the thyroid gland, using medicines or surgery, is usually required to treat the disease.

10. Guillain-barre syndrome

With Guillain-Barre syndrome, the immune system attacks the nerves controlling muscles in the legs and sometimes the arms and upper body resulting in weakness of said muscles.

If left untreated, the condition can be severe leading to loss of use of the limbs and the patient being moved to a wheelchair.

Filtering the blood with a procedure called plasmapheresis is the main treatment for Guillain-Barre syndrome.