Autoimmune diseases. What are they and why do they occur?

In the previous article, we have figured out how the immune system works and which malfunctions may happen. Today let’s talk about autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune diseases are the result of a malfunction of the immune system when the body begins to attack its own cells and tissues. To this day, it remains one of the least studied topics in medicine. And there is an explanation for this: the causes are often unknown, and there are too many diseases.

Yes, the causes of these diseases are often unknown (apart from the fact that genetic predisposition is a significant risk factor). This is what makes autoimmune diseases so common. And yet, what causes the disease in one person may not for sure cause it in another. Just the body takes its own tissues for foreign ones and attacks them.

The manifestations of autoimmune diseases can be very different. Symptoms depend on whether the entire body or a specific part of it is affected. Any organ can be affected: kidneys, liver, heart, and even brain. Most autoimmune diseases are chronic in nature, with rare exceptions. Though, some may pass as inexplicably as they appear.

For example, here are some of the most common autoimmune diseases.

  • Celiac disease (gluten intolerance)
  • Arthritis (destruction of connective tissue, usually joints)
  • Crohn's disease (intestinal inflammation)
  • Psoriasis (skin disease)
  • Type I diabetes (not producing enough insulin)
  • Vitiligo (skin pigmentation)
  • Hashimoto's disease (thyroid disease, hypothyroidism)
  • Graves' disease (thyroid disease, hyperthyroidism)

How is autoimmune disease diagnosed?

When we discussed how often it is worth seeing  different doctors, we also mentioned the therapist - once a year, for an examination. During this examination the therapist may suspect an autoimmune disease. In this case it is needed to make some blood tests to find out for sure. By the way, which blood tests should be made every year, you may read here.

🔺 CBC - if there is an inflammation in the body, the number of erythrocytes (red blood cells) decreases, and this will be seen in the analysis.

🔺 Erythrocyte sedimentation rate analysis - with inflammation, the rate increases.

But since inflammation does not necessarily mean an autoimmune disease, doctors also prescribe other blood tests to detect antibodies: these can be antinuclear antibodies, or antibodies to CCP (cyclic citrullinated peptide). Though, sometimes it happens that these antibodies are also found in healthy people, without any autoimmune disorders. So these tests will be a signal of the disease along with the symptoms.

What is a cure for autoimmune diseases ?

Of course, it all depends on what kind of disease it is and which organ is affected. But most often, in any case, it will be the drugs that suppress the immune system. Such drugs have a huge number of unpleasant side effects, because the body's ability to defend itself also decreases. 

Once again we would like to remind you that no one is immune from any diseases, even though a healthy lifestyle is maintained. Therefore, it is needed to regularly visit doctors, make tests and undergo medical examinations. This will help to diagnose malfunctions and prescribe right therapy on time. And please, do not self-medicate. Often, it only worsens everything.