Most days we take for granted just how amazing our immune systems really are, until we find ourselves getting sick. Our immune systems are made up of cells, tissues, molecules, and organs, all of which work incredibly hard to fight off viruses, bacteria, and other diseases that invade our bodies. Autoimmune disease: what you need to know.
However, once in a while, and for unknown reasons, our immune systems turn on the very cells that it’s meant to protect. This can cause any number of autoimmune diseases, and there are around 80 to 100 different types out there.
Autoimmune Disease: What You Need to Know
There are an estimated 50 million Americans that have some form of autoimmune disease, where women are more likely to be affected than men. Some of them you may already know about, like Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. But there’s also Lupus, Celiac Disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Psoriasis, Hashimoto’s Disease, and Grave’s Disease amongst many others. Here’s more about autoimmune disease and everything you need to know.
What Are the Symptoms?
Although there are so many different types of autoimmune diseases, they all share several of the same symptoms. In most cases, autoimmune diseases are likelier to make life miserable rather than proving fatal. Most people feel fatigue and lethargy, muscle aches, along with a low-grade fever and an ill feeling (Malaise).
Hair loss and numbness in the hands and feet are a few others. There are often other symptoms as well, ranging from mild to severe at times.
Other symptoms depend upon the location of the particularly abnormal immune response, while others may begin to develop over a longer period of time. Patients that suffer from one autoimmune disease are far likelier to develop another autoimmune problem at some point.
Diagnosing Autoimmune Disease
If your primary care doctor suspects that you might have a particular disease, he or she will have laboratory tests performed, and possibly imaging studies conducted to get a better idea of what’s actually going on. Some patients mention that the entire process can be drawn out and lengthy at times. That’s because there isn’t a particular test that can diagnose several of the diseases right away, and it’s more a process of elimination than anything.
At this point, your regular care physician can transfer you to a specialist who works on patients with autoimmune diseases. This is where you may get set up with a Dermatologist, Neurologist, Gastroenterologist, or an Endocrinologist, to find out what treatment is best for you.
What are the Treatments?
Treatments and medication will vary depending on the type of autoimmune disease that a patient has. It also comes down to the severity of the disease and the conditions that they are facing.
For patients that are struggling with mild pain, over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin can bring some relief. For symptoms that are more severe, they may require prescription medication to help with sleeping problems, rashes, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. There are times when the disease is even more severe and it requires patients to go into surgery or other treatments. In case you missed my post on 35 OTC Medications You Should Store
There are also prescription medications that work to suppress your immune system in order to help manage the disease and continue to allow your organs to work properly. People suffering from Lupus may have to take such drugs so that their kidneys will function the way that they should.
Some patients use alternative medications to bring relief from their symptoms. Acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal products, and hypnosis are just a few treatments used. Low doses of chemotherapy may also be used to help reduce inflammation.
How to Deal with Flares
A flare is a number of symptoms that come upon a person in a severe manner. Patients that have the disease need to pay close attention to what may cause these triggers to come about. A couple of common triggers include too much stress and being out in the sun for far too long.
It’s important that patients visit their doctor regularly, avoid their triggers, and follow their treatment plan to help prevent new flares.
Women Pregnant with Autoimmune Disease
Women that have an Autoimmune Disease can still have a safe pregnancy, but the risks can increase depending upon the type of disease that the mother has. Women who have Lupus run a higher risk for preterm birth and stillbirth. Pregnant women who have Myasthenia Gravis may have more difficulty breathing throughout the pregnancy.
It also might not be safe to take autoimmune medications throughout the pregnancy. If you have any one of the many autoimmune diseases out there and are hoping to get pregnant, make sure that you talk with your doctor beforehand to lower these risks.
What Else Can Patients Do?
Get Enough Rest
There are a host of other things that you can do to help feel better. For starters, patients need to make sure that they are getting enough rest at night. Not only does rest help your body and mind, but it gives your body enough time to keep itself from getting sick. Most of us need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night.
Reduce the Stress
Stress is another factor that can cause your symptoms to worsen. It’s best to keep your body and mind relaxed without allowing undesired stressors to get the better of you. Patients will often seek counseling, meditation, hypnosis, and guided imagery as good relaxation techniques.
Eating healthier foods with plenty of nutrients like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low or fat-free milk products, and a leaner source of protein is another great thing that you can do for your body. For the most part, stay away from foods that contain too much salt, cholesterol, trans, and saturated fats.
Take the Time to Exercise
Exercise is another important stress reliever that’s good for your body. Find out what your doctor would recommend for you as far as physical exercise is concerned. Those suffering from joint or muscle pain will need a gentler and more gradual exercise program than others. Some patients enjoy more relaxing types of exercise like yoga and tai chi.
There’s the possibility that you may have never heard of autoimmune disease, but it affects millions of people and many do not even realize that’s what they are dealing with. Autoimmune diseases are far more common in women and tend to run through the family.
Here is more information, and a breakdown of several of the most common autoimmune diseases and what they affect. What did you think of autoimmune disease: what you need to know?
Please exercise if possible, eat healthy, and keep prepping. Please stay well, my friends. May God bless this world, Linda
Copyright Images: Arthritis AdobeStock_119747348 by Narstudio, Healthy Food Deposit photos_167960472_s-2019