10 most common autoimmune diseases
The immune system is an almost perfect machine that protects us from the attack of pathogens, making us resistant to many diseases. And we say “almost” because, like any other system in the human body, it can fail.
Because of genetic errors, it is possible for immune system cells, which need to recognize pathogens and attack them, to be “programmed” poorly and believe that our body’s cells are a threat that needs to be eradicated.
At the moment when our immune system attacks its own cells, many diseases can appear , which are known as autoimmune, as their origin does not come from outside (neither infections, nor damage, nor the use of substances, nor exposure to carcinogens … ), but from our body.
In today’s article we will talk about some of the most common autoimmune diseases, detailing their symptoms and the treatments available, given that the causes are always genetic.
What is an autoimmune disease?
An autoimmune disease is any disorder that occurs due to a genetic error in the genes that encode the structures of the immune system, causing the immune cells to mistakenly attack the healthy cells of the body.
These autoimmune diseases can affect many different parts of the body depending on how the immune system is unregulated, with severity ranging from mild to life-threatening.
More than 80 different autoimmune diseases are known, which have different symptoms, although there is one common to all: inflammation of the affected areas. This leads to redness, pain, swelling and fever in areas of the body that are being attacked by the immune system itself.
There is no cause. Only genetic chance is what will determine whether a person suffers from an autoimmune disease or not , since his appearance depends on the appearance of genetic errors during embryonic development. Some, in addition, tend to be hereditary, that is, they are passed from parents to children.
What are the most common autoimmune diseases?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), autoimmune diseases affect between 3% and 7% of the world’s population, so, although many of them are rare diseases, the sum of all those who develop autoimmune disorders has a high incidence in world.
Then we will see what are the most common diseases in which the immune system “signals” as a threat to our body cells.
1. Celiac disease
Celiac disease is a disease characterized by an immune response by the immune system to the consumption of gluten , a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats.
Due to a genetic error, the immune system, when it detects that gluten has been consumed, begins to damage the intestinal villi, which are needed to absorb nutrients. Because of this impairment, people with celiac disease have health problems if they consume gluten.
The most common symptoms after eating gluten-containing products are: abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, loss of appetite, fatigue, bruising, low mood, hair loss, etc.
Being an autoimmune disorder of genetic origin, celiac disease cannot be cured. The only way to avoid symptoms is to eat a lifelong gluten-free diet.
2. Type 1 diabetes
Diabetes, a disease characterized by excess blood sugar, can be of two types: 1 and 2. Type 2 diabetes is the most common and is associated with overweight, because if too much sugar is consumed in the diet, the cells can become resistant to the action of insulin (the hormone that causes glucose to enter cells and not circulate freely in the blood) and diabetes occurs.
Type 1 diabetes, on the other hand, is not related to an unhealthy lifestyle, but is caused by a genetic error With This means, it is an autoimmune disease. In this case, the immune system begins to attack the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, so not enough is produced by this hormone and the sugar travels freely through the blood.
Diabetes has the following symptoms: weight loss, extreme thirst, the appearance of wounds that take time to heal, fatigue, weakness, recurrent infections, blurred vision … Can lead to serious health problems (cardiovascular disease and kidney, depression, nerve damage, etc.), and can even cause death.
Since it can not be cured, treatment consists of insulin injections when needed and careful diet including physical activity in lifestyle.
3. Addison’s disease
Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disorder in which immune cells attack the adrenal glands , which are located in the kidneys, causing them to be unable to produce the required amount of hormones.
Hormones that stop producing properly are cortisol and aldosterone, which makes the person unable to break down fats well or raise blood pressure to optimal values, respectively.
This is accompanied by certain symptoms: weight loss, decreased appetite, extreme fatigue, low blood pressure, abdominal pain, depression, hair loss, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), darkening of the skin, irritability, etc.
4. Systemic lupus erythematosus
Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease in which immune cells begin to attack various organs and healthy tissues, including skin, kidneys, brain, and joints, among others.
The most common symptoms are: pain and swelling in the joints (especially fingers, hands, wrists and knees), chest pain, unexplained fever, fatigue and weakness, mouth sores, sensitivity to sunlight, redness of the skin, lymph nodes bloating, general malaise, weight loss, decreased appetite …
There will also be other symptoms depending on the region of the affected body. For example, if the damage is to the brain, there will be headaches, personality changes, vision problems … If it affects the heart: inflammation of the heart muscle, arrhythmia …
There is no cure and treatment will depend on the affected region of the body and the severity of the symptoms, although anti-inflammatory drugs are the most commonly prescribed medications.
5. Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which cells of the immune system attack the joints. , damaging them and causing an excess of synovial fluid. This causes the bones and cartilage to rub against each other constantly.
The main symptoms of arthritis are pain in the joints (especially hands, feet, knees, wrists, elbows) and stiffness. There may be other symptoms: fatigue, fever, dry mouth, tingling sensation in the extremities, etc.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are helpful in reducing excess synovial fluid, thus reducing inflammation and relieving symptoms.
6. Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which cells of the immune system begin to attack the protective sheath of neurons , leading to neurodegeneration leading to disability.
Diseases is a non-fatal disease (unlike amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) with symptoms that depend on the nerves affected, although the most common is the loss of the ability to walk correctly. Muscle spasms, tremors, weakness, imbalance, vision problems, facial pain, dizziness, etc. are also observed.
Although there is no cure, current treatments help control the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease as much as possible.
7. Guillain-Barré Syndrome
Guillain-Barré syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which the cells of the immune system also attack the nerves . It usually causes weakness of the body and tingling sensation in the extremities, although it progresses rapidly until it results in paralysis of vital organs, thus ending fatally.
For this reason, people who begin to have typical symptoms should be admitted as soon as possible, as treatment will allow them to overcome the disease. Although it can be cured, it will leave some consequences: weakness, fatigue and numbness of the limbs.
8. Myasthenia gravis
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease in which cells of the immune system prevent nerves from transmitting information to muscles.
It does not affect the muscles controlled by the autonomic nervous system, ie there are no problems with the heart or digestive tract. The problem is in the muscles that move voluntarily, those that are under our control .
The main symptom is muscle weakness, which results in problems with breathing, speaking, walking, lifting objects, chewing and swallowing, etc. Therefore, fatigue, vision problems, facial paralysis, keeping the head down, among others, are common.
There is no cure for this disease, although medications can help improve nerve-muscle communication, which, along with leading a healthy lifestyle, can reduce symptoms.
Dermatomyositis is a dermatological disease that, although it may be due to a viral infection, usually originates in an autoimmune disorder. Immune system cells attack skin cells, causing inflammation and redness .
The most common symptoms are: flushed skin, redness of the upper eyelids, muscle weakness, shortness of breath and swallowing problems.
Treatment consists of administering corticosteroids, drugs that act as anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant, reducing the activity of the immune system so as not to cause so much damage.
10. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder in which the cells of the immune system attack the thyroid gland , which causes a damage to the production of hormones, thus leading to hypothyroidism.
When there is not enough thyroid hormone in the body, metabolism can not be adequately controlled, leading to a number of symptoms: weight gain, slow heartbeat, increased blood cholesterol, drowsiness, convulsions, depression, pain in joints, constipation, swelling of the face, weakness and fatigue, dry skin, etc.
Despite the lack of a cure, medications-based treatments that replace the affected hormones are often helpful in reducing symptoms.