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A Guide to Autoimmune Diseases

An immune system is made up of the spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes, leukocytes, and thymus recognizes and get rid of foreign invaders. Sometimes the immune system may fail to differentiate between a healthy cell and these foreign invaders and start to attack the healthy cells leading to autoimmune disease. So far, about 80 autoimmune diseases are known and affect millions of people worldwide. The diseases can attack any part of your body and have many symptoms. Here is a list of most common autoimmune diseases:

1. Alopecia Areata

This is one of the autoimmune diseases, which is caused when an immune system attack hair follicles. The white blood cells start to attack the hair follicles which lead to interruption of hair growth resulting in patches of hair loss. The disease affects children and young adults. However, hair follicles remain alive, and there could be hair regrowth even after being bald for long.

2. Lupus

Lupus is a chronic disease, and no one knows what cause it. However, it is known that lupus tends to affect people of the same family and doctors know that it has to do with genetics. Those born with high chances of developing lupus would need triggers like an infection, sun’s exposure or hormone changes to develop the disease.

3. Hashimoto’s Disease

The thyroid gland is attacked resulting in Hashimoto’s disease. This gland produces hormones which control many body activities. When the thyroid gland is attacked, it leads to gland’s inflammation occurs interfering with its function. Initial symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease include sluggishness and fatigue. Other symptoms include hair loss, hoarse voice, puffy face, muscle aches and unexplained weight loss.

4. Graves’ Disease

Grave’s disease is caused by high levels of thyroxine, which results from the immune system attacking the thyroid gland. Thyroxine is a hormone that affects metabolism. Some of the symptoms are weight loss, frequent urination, irritated or enlarged eyes.

5. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is one of the many autoimmune diseases, which affects people differently. However, in all the cases, the immune system attacks the nervous system. For instance, this disease can attack a woman’s optic nerve while it attacks the man’s spinal cord. Every nerve is wrapped in myelin which protects your nerves from overexposure or damage. The immune system attack myelin, exposing the nerves which prevent signal transmission from the brain.

6. Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome

This disease causes blood clots in veins and arteries. It can also lead to complications during pregnancy. The condition can develop when antibodies that fight phospholipid are produced. Stroke and deep vein thrombosis are the basic symptoms. Pregnant women may have a miscarriage, stillbirth, and preeclampsia.

7. Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

This disease occurs when the body attacks the red blood cells. This will destroy the red blood cells and finally anemia. The basic symptom is fatigue. Other symptoms are breathlessness, dizziness, chest pain and pale skin. This condition can be severe when left untreated and when you experience these symptoms, you need to see a doctor to guide on autoimmune hemolytic anemia.

8. Autoimmune Hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the immune system attack liver cells resulting in inflammation of the liver. Some the basic symptoms are jaundice, enlarged liver, vomiting, skin rashes, loss of appetite and nausea. Liver biopsy and blood test are required to diagnose this condition.

9. Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a disorder of small intestine. It’s also a genetic disorder. Symptoms of celiac disease are fatigue and diarrhea. It can be diagnosed in children when there are symptoms of failure to thrive. Treatment of celiac disease involves eating a gluten-free diet.

10. Wegener’s Granulomatosis

This is a rare illness that involves inflammation of the blood vessels which restrict the amount of blood flowing to different organs. The condition affects the upper respiratory tract and lungs. The initial symptom of Wegener’s granulomatosis occurs in respiratory tract leading to shortness of breath.

The condition may worsen leading to a constantly running nose, ear infections, sinus pain, nose bleeds, skin sores, coughing up blood, achy joints, appetite loss and swelling.

11. Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is an autoimmune disease inflammatory cells develop in various parts of the body. The condition usually affects the lungs, eyes, skin, and lymph nodes. Symptoms vary depending on the progress of the disease and the organ affected. Common symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, persistent cough, small red bumps, weight loss and arthritis in elbows, ankles, hands, and wrists.

12. Scleroderma

This disease results in tightening and hardening and tightening of connective tissues and skin. Systematic scleroderma attacks the internal organs like the lungs, heart, kidneys and digestive tract while localized scleroderma affects your skin. Some of the symptoms of scleroderma are gastroesophageal reflux disease, swelling of fingers and hands, and tightening of the skin. Also, scleroderma patients may experience exaggerated response to emotional stress and cold temperatures.

Scleroderma has no cure and treatments include occupational and physical therapy. These therapies help in improving strength and movement, medication to dilate blood vessels and suppress immune system response and cosmetic procedures that reduce skin lesions appearance.

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