Autoimmune diseases are those that occur when the immune system reacts abnormally and attacks its own body. Proteins called antibodies, produced by white blood cells, are used to identify and destroy foreign bacteria or viruses. When normal substances are mistaken for foreign, the antibodies end up attacking the body and causing an autoimmune disease.
The cause of autoimmune diseases is not known, but is believed to be affected by exposure to microorganisms or other environmental causes. These diseases are more common in women, who account for 75 percent of cases. Some people may be genetically predisposed to autoimmune diseases.
There are more than 150 different autoimmune diseases. Some attack certain specific organs while others affect multiple organs or the entire body. They can be mild or life-threatening, but every disease is rooted in an immune system malfunction. The common symptoms among these diseases include fatigue, dizziness, malaise and fever.
The most common types of autoimmune diseases are:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) - RA is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. It most commonly affects the wrists, fingers, knees, feet and ankles and causes muscle aches, stiffness and joint pain. RA affects over 2.5 million people in US.
- Lupus - Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. Mild cases of lupus can primarily affect the skin, causing skin rash, mouth sores and hair loss. Most people also experience joint pain and swelling, fatigue and fever. There are over 16,000 new cases of lupus each year and it most commonly affects women between the ages of 15 and 45.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) - MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system and causes loss of muscle control, vision, balance and sensation. The immune system attacks the myelin sheath, which is the protective coating that surrounds nerve fibers. Without the protection, the nerves become inflamed and symptoms form and worsen as the disease progresses.
- Scleroderma - Scleroderma is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes fibrosis, or hardening of the skin and its connective tissues. Mild cases can cause skin deformities while more severe cases can affect internal organs including the joints, lungs and kidneys. About 100,000 Americans suffer from scleroderma.
Other types of autoimmune diseases include diabetes, celiac disease, dermatomyositis, Addison's disease and Grave's disease.
Since most autoimmune diseases are chronic, treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and preventing flare ups. Treatment depends on the type of disease but may include medication, hormone replacement therapy, corticosteroids and nutritional supplements. If the disease affects the blood, transfusions may be needed. Preserving organ function is important since these diseases will continue to attack the body. Treatment is just as important as relieving symptoms and will help prevent future damage. Radiation or surgery to remove damaged cells can also be effective treatment for autoimmune diseases.
Living with an autoimmune disease can be manageable through a healthy lifestyle and help from a doctor. It is important to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get enough rest and see your doctor on a regular basis to continue leading a full and active life. There are new treatment options being developed all the time so staying up-to-date and informed is the best way to achieve the best treatment for you. Call us today to talk with a doctor and figure out how to deal with your symptoms.
LocationsDr. Priya Ramani treats patients with autoimmune dieases in areas throughout and around Tampa such as: Oldsmar, Dunedin, Odessa, Clearwater, Largo, St. Petersburg, Redington Shores, Palm Harbor, Bradenton, Seffner, Temple Terrace, Greater Carrollwood, Bloomingdale, Westchase, Wesley Chapel, Tarpon Springs, New Port Richey, Crystal Springs, Bayonet Point, Dade City, Brandon, Riverview, Hudson, Lutz, Land O' Lakes, Citrus Park, Pebble Creek, Cheval, Town n' Country, Dover, Valrico, Plant City, Gandy, Zephyrhills, Ruskin, Sun City, Trinity, Safety Harbor, Seminole, Indian Shores, and Belleair Beach.
For more information about Autoimmune Diseases, Call Priya Ramani's office at 813-852-0012