Autoimmune disorders are truly confounding illnesses- what is supposed to be defending your body against diseases starts to attack your body! Such is the nature of autoimmune disorders, which affect almost 50 million Americans, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA). Let’s take a deep dive into autoimmune disorders
Our body is made up of cells and tissues each having many functions to perform in keeping the body running efficiently. Our body (like any country) has a defense system called an immune system which is a network of cells and tissues throughout the body that fight foreign invaders (bacteria, fungi, virus, yeast, etc.) which may be harmful to the body.
The fact is, the immune system has two ways to deal with foreign pathogens in the body. There is the acquired or adaptive immune system that develops as we grow. Then there is the other immune system that is inborn.
The acquired system’s predominant feature is its ability to keep a track of the past foreign invaders so it can destroy them again, if they return.
Under normal circumstances, the disease causing agents incite the body by manipulating its functions. In response, the body triggers the acquired immune cells, which then produce antibodies that latch on to the foreign cells, identify them and destroy them eventually. The other immune system does not take help of antibodies.
Instead, it alerts the white blood cells or WBC’s (pretty much like the soldiers of our body) that destroy the intruders directly.
The problem is within the acquired immune system– in some people it will cause autoimmune disorders, as the produced antibodies and the immune cells both identify your healthy cells as foreign and target them instead of the actual foreign agents.
There are around 80 different types of autoimmune disorders present; many of them have similar symptoms, which make their diagnosis a little tricky. However, most common symptoms include, fatigue, nausea and fever; their effects (depending on its type) may be seen on one or many types of organ tissues, even causing their structural and functional changes.
The most commonly affected organs being the: joints, muscles, skin, blood vessels, red blood cells (RBC’s), endocrine glands, connective tissues, etc.
The cause of autoimmune disorders is still unclear but the usual suspects that trigger this disorder are mostly due to pathogens (bacterial, viral), exposure to drugs, chemical and environmental agents that could prove harmful to the body; some suggest it could also be due to hereditary.
Treatment of autoimmune disorders through medical intervention mostly involves controlling the over-activity of the immune system with oral medications and injections.
Following are the descriptions of some of the autoimmune diseases:
Autoimmune disorders are chronic conditions with no curative therapy. However, the best approach is to manage its symptoms through various alternative therapies, diet and lifestyle modifications, apart from necessary medical interventions.