The immune system was designed to protect the body against various diseases. But did you know that it can also attack the body and destroy healthy tissue? The condition is called Autoimmune Disorder. Alarmingly enough, there are about 80 types of this condition.
In a normal healthy person, the immune system's white blood cells work to protect the body from harmful substances. These substances, which are called antigens, include:
- cancer cells
- blood or tissues from another person
The immune system generates antibodies that block or destroy all of these substances before they can inflict damage to one's body.
• Antigen Confusion
In a person with an autoimmune disorder, the immune system has difficulty distinguishing healthy body tissue from antigens. Because of that, the immune system makes the mistake of destroying healthy body tissue. This immune response is similar to the response for allergic conditions. The difference is that in allergies the immune system fights an outside substance, where in autoimmune disorder the immune system fights normal body tissues that it should just ignore.
Do We Know What Causes It?
What causes the failure of the immune system to distinguish healthy body tissues from antigens is not known. Some medical experts think that some microorganisms such as bacteria or viruses can trigger this occurrence. Others believe that there is a genetic factor behind autoimmune disorders.
Types Of Autoimmune Disorders
Some examples of autoimmune disorders include:
- Addison's Disease
- Celiac Disease
- Graves Disease
- Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Pernicious Anemia
- Reactive Arthritis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Sjogren Syndrome
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
- Type I Diabetes
Effects Of Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune disorders can result in destruction of body tissues, abnormal growth of an organ, and changes in the function of an organ. The most common tissues and organs affected by these disorders include:
- blood vessels
- connective tissues
- endocrine glands such as thyroid or pancreas
- red blood cells
Symptoms of autoimmune disorders vary depending on the type. Generally, these would include:
- malaise (ill-feeling)
As for the exams and tests, a physical exam would be done to check on the signs.
Further tests will be done to find out which specific type of autoimmune disorder is present.
These tests include:
- Antinuclear Antibody Tests
- Autoantibody Tests
- C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
- Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR).
Treatments for autoimmune disorders are done to:
- reduce the symptoms
- inhibit the autoimmune response
- improve the body's ability to ward off other diseases and complications
Treatments would of course depend on the specific type of autoimmune disorder that a patient has.
- In some patients whose blood is affected, blood transfusion may be in order.
- Those whose bones, joints, and muscles are affected would need help with movement and daily functions.
Medications that control or reduce the response of the immune system include Immunosuppressive Medicines.
Under this, you'll find Corticosteroids and Nonsteroid Drugs.
Nonsteroid Drugs include:
Although most autoimmune disorders are chronic, it's good to know that many of them can be controlled using these treatments.