Autoimmune diseases aren't talked about as often as cancer or heart disease but they are just as prevalent. The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association estimates 50 million Americans have an autoimmune disease. There are different types of autoimmune diseases and they are often difficult to diagnose. Let's learn more about autoimmune disease symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
What are autoimmune diseases?
A body's immune system normally defends against disease but sometimes the immune system can turn against healthy cells. When the immune system begins attacking healthy cells and affecting the body tissue or organs,it is called an autoimmune disease. There are more that 100 different types of autoimmune diseases, including some very common diseases such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Celiac disease
- Pernicious anemia
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Hyperthyroid diseases
- Type 1 diabetes
No one is sure what causes the immune system to attack healthy cells but research shows that you may be more susceptible to developing an autoimmune disease if yo have a family member with one.
Symptoms of an autoimmune disease
Autoimmune diseases can affect your joints, muscles, skin, blood cells and endocrine glands. With so many different types of disease, the symptoms are quite varied. However, there are some common issues that most people with an autoimmune disease experience:
- unspecified feelings of illness
If you are experiencing the above issues, your doctor may do additional screening tests for autoimmune diseases. There are no cures for autoimmune disease but many of them have periods of inactivity where no symptoms are felt. You can reduce some flare-ups and reduce symptoms during a flare-up by following a healthy lifestyle including:
- A balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Getting enough sleep
- Decreasing stress
- Avoiding known triggers
Spotlight on Psoriasis: a common autoimmune disease
Psoriasis is a chronic, noncontagious condition characterized by scaling and inflammation. The inflamed skin forms red, thickened areas with silvery scales. The condition is most commonly found on the scalp, elbows, forearms, knees, shins, ankles, and lower back. The inflamed skin is usually asymptomatic, but may cause pain and discomfort by cracking. Visible areas of scaling can also cause anxiety and depression. Psoriasis flare-ups may be triggered by a variety of factors, including environment, certain medications, and stress. Some people with psoriasis may develop psoriatic arthritis in the joints of the hip, spine, knee or elbow. If you are experiencing red, raised skin patches with silvery-white scales, make an appointment with your doctor or a dermatologist.
Dermatology at Logansport Memorial Hospital