Knowing Autoimmune Disease
The immune system has great importance as it protects the human body from bacteria and viruses which can invade our body and cause disastrous effects. Occasionally, some people suffer from autoimmune diseases when their immune system misfires and does not work normally. Autoimmune diseases, with the exception of a few types, are exclusively uncommon.
Overall they affect almost 5 percent of the population in western countries. They are an enthralling but poorly understood group of diseases. So, what is an autoimmune disease?
In simple words, autoimmune disease is a health condition in which our immune system starts to attack our body cells. Autoimmune diseases are novel and it is difficult to understand the exact causes of this abnormality. They vary from person to person and with respect to the types of the disease. Health experts have managed to find some of the potential causes of this health condition.
What is an Autoimmune Disease?
By definition, the term autoimmune disease describes more than 80 types of disorders when our body’s immune system mistakenly starts to attack and destroy its own tissues and cells. Normally, the immune system has the ability to recognize foreign particles in the system and immediately releases proteins to fight the invaders. In autoimmune disease, our body’s immune system fails to differentiate between body parts and foreign particles. Thus released autoantibodies start to attack healthy cells mostly in joints and skin. Along with rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune thyroiditis, there are a number of different types of this health syndrome. Most autoimmune disease treatment is done by reducing the immune activity.
Types of Autoimmune Diseases
The malfunction of the immune system can harm any part of the body and result in weakening bodily functions and sometimes it becomes life-threatening. The autoimmune disease manifests itself in more than 80 forms. Some well-known types of autoimmune diseases include systemic lupus erythematosus, Guillain Barre Syndrome, Graves’ disease, IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), rheumatoid arthritis, and Type I diabetes. Many other types are difficult to diagnose and very rare. In all types of autoimmune diseases, inflammation is caused due to attack of autoantibodies in healthy cells and tissues in the body.
Causes of Autoimmune Disease
Normally, the treatment of autoimmune diseases focuses on suppressing the symptoms and the root causes of these diseases remain a mystery. Studies have been done to find the root causes of autoimmune diseases.
Most health experts believe that autoimmune diseases are caused by interactions between genetics and environmental factors.
- Gender characteristics
These factors are thought to be somehow associated with the likelihood of developing an autoimmune disease.
Research completed in 2014 suggests that gender plays an important role in developing autoimmune disease symptoms. The results indicate that 6.4% of women get the autoimmune disease as compared to men who stand at 2.7%. Mostly it occurs in women between the ages of 15 to 44 years.
Similarly, some autoimmune diseases affect certain ethnic groups. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is seen to attack mostly African-American and Hispanic people as compared to Caucasians. The rate of prevalence of autoimmune diseases is rising day by day and a wide range of studies are in process to know the reasons and causes of these diseases.
Another study suggests that highly processed, high sugar, and high-fat diet consumption is also a contributing factor for autoimmune diseases. One more study focused on what causes autoimmune diseases gives the hygiene hypothesis. This study suggests that due to the excessive levels of hygiene by means of vaccines and antiseptics, the young generation is less exposed to germs which makes their immune system hypersensitive and develop the immune disorder.
Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune diseases are novel and unique in their nature so their symptoms are quite vague and hard to identify. These diseases have some common signs like skin rashes, swelling, fatigue, mild-grade fever, pain and difficulty in maintaining concentration.
Inflammation is a common perpetrator which attacks healthy cells and tissues in our body. The aforementioned symptoms of autoimmune diseases are very dubious and usually are misunderstood with other viral infections, stress, and depression. A study suggests that 25% of people with autoimmune diseases have more than one type of symptoms.
Some more signs of autoimmune diseases include digestive problems or chronic abdominal pain, swollen glands, and tingling in the feet or hands. The symptoms vary for different types of diseases. For example in alopecia areata, hair follicles are under attack by the immune system and it results in hair loss from the scalp, eyelashes, and eyebrows.
Similarly, antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) occurs with other autoimmune diseases, such as SLE, and antibodies attack the cells lining the blood vessels and cause clotting of the blood. APS can occur separately showing the symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, and ulcers on the legs.
Hepatitis is one of the worst forms of autoimmune diseases. In this disease, liver cells are attacked. Normally it is not detected in the early stages. Jaundice, joint pain, extreme weight loss, light colored stools, and absence of menstruation are common signs of this disorder.
How to Ward Off Autoimmune Disease?
The symptoms of autoimmune diseases do not appear immediately. They get worse with the passage of time if they remain unattended. Almost all autoimmune diseases cause inflammation in the body. Major factors which may help to manage the symptoms of the disease are environmental factors, maintaining hygiene, and balance in our lifestyle. Additionally, our gut is very delicate in a sense that it can lead to many diseases if it does not work properly. If junctions of the gut become loose, all the food particles, microorganisms, and toxins can enter the bloodstream and cause all types of inflammation. A leaky gut can become the main reason for autoimmune disease. Studies suggest that a healthy gut may ensure protection against autoimmune diseases.
Our diet and eating habits continuously affect our health. Processed food, low-fat and gluten-rich packaged foods which are high in sugar content create huge damage to our gut and indirectly to our immune system. Gluten triggers the release of zonulin which is a highly inflammatory chemical. So optimizing our diet may help in reducing the chances of immune disorder. Toxin–free environment is also important for a healthy life. Toxins are absorbed by the body and enhance the likelihood of getting an autoimmune disease. We can suppress its effects by eating organic food, and through the use of toxin-free products. Some studies suggest the detoxification of our body by taking vitamins and liver boosters may also be helpful in managing autoimmune disease symptoms.