Trillions of the tiniest cells are working all the time to help keep you healthy. Your amazing immune system knows just what to do. It’s something you probably don't think about until something goes wrong. Unfortunately that's what happens with autoimmune disorders like type 1 diabetes, lupus and psoriasis. CHI Health is here to tell you what you should know on Autoimmune Disorders Uncovered.
What are Common Autoimmune Diseases?
I’m Dr. Naureen Rafiq and I'm a Family Medicine doctor at CHI Health. More than 80 autoimmune diseases are recognized by the medical world - can you name one? If you know someone with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or type 1 diabetes, you know someone with an autoimmune disease.
Some 23.5 million Americans fall into this category. What they all have in common is a malfunctioning immune system. Normally, this network of cells,tissues and organs behave like your body's first responders. They are the first to take action when there's trouble. For example, when you have a cold, these cells tell your body to raise the temperature and that fever helps you get rid of infection. With autoimmune diseases, this defense system sees trouble where there is none and does harm instead of good.
With rheumatoid arthritis, those first responders perceive danger in the joints. Their response ends up causing inflammation, swelling and pain. For inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) it's the lining of the intestines which get unneeded attention resulting in diarrhea, bleeding, pain and weight loss. The pancreas is where those first responders take a toll on Type 1 Diabetes patients by getting in the way of insulin-producing cells
What causes the immune system to malfunction is not well understood but researchers believe genetics and environmental factors play a role.
Symptoms of Autoimmune Disorders
Symptoms indicating a possible autoimmune disorder include joint pain and stiffness. Thyroid problems which can cause fatigue, weight gain and muscle aches and skin issues such as rashes, blisters and color changes.
Specialists generally treat autoimmune diseases with medications that suppress the immune system. Unfortunately these drugs dampen the effectiveness of the entire system, not just those rogue first responders.
Recent advances are offering new options for treating these complicated conditions without suppressing the immune system we all depend upon. We really do depend on this amazing system and it’s trillions of little cells.
I'm Dr. Naureen Rafiq be sure to check back for more from CHI Health Uncovered.