What is an autoimmune disorder?
The number of people diagnosed with autoimmune disorders is rising rapidly. It is unclear whether the number of people who actually have autoimmune diseases is on the rise or whether the increase is due to a better understanding of what autoimmune disorders are and how to diagnose them.
An autoimmune disorder happens when the body’s own immune system begins to attack its own healthy tissue. In some of these disorders, only one organ is attacked. This is the case in Type 1 diabetes where the pancreas is attacked and loses its ability to make insulin. In others, the immune system attacks the whole body. This is the case in Lupus, where flare-ups can affect different parts of the body.
What are the symptoms of autoimmune disorders?
The symptoms of an autoimmune disorder vary depending on which part of the body the immune system is attacking. In general, if you are having pain or decreased function in any of your body’s organs and unexplained fatigue and achiness, and there is no other cause found, you may be suffering from an autoimmune disorder.
What are the causes of autoimmune disorders?
The exact reasons why the body’s defense mechanisms begin to attack its own cells are unknown. What is known is that the number of diagnosed cases is on the rise, that some, like Lupus and MS, tend to run in families, and that people in Europe and North America are more likely to get them. Whether this is the result of diet, environmental factors, or genetics remains to be seen.
Can any complications arise if left untreated?
Autoimmune disorders tend to get progressively worse if left untreated. Some, like rheumatoid arthritis, IBD, and multiple sclerosis, cannot be cured even with early treatment but there is a good chance of slowing down the progression with proper treatment.
What medications treat autoimmune disorders?
Most of the medications prescribed for autoimmune disorders are designed to treat the symptoms brought on by the disease, not the disease itself. This includes things like insulin for type 1 diabetes, steroids to relieve the pain and stiff joints of arthritis, and anti-diarrheal or laxatives for IBD.
Common medications may include