An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system attacks tissues, organs, and systems that are healthy and is unable to distinguish native cells of the body from foreign objects. These diseases can target just one part of the body or have more widespread effects. More than 80 different diseases have been identified; some of the most common examples include lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
When a harmful substance is present in the body, it releases antigens that can be detected by the immune system. This triggers the release of antibodies to destroy foreign cells and other dangers. When an autoimmune disease is present, antibodies are released in response to healthy tissue, destroying normal cells and leading to associated symptoms. The parts of the body most commonly affected by autoimmune disease include connective tissue, blood vessels, joints, endocrine glands, red blood cells, muscles, and skin.
While the causes of autoimmune diseases are not well-understood, certain risk factors have been identified. Women are twice as likely as men to develop autoimmune diseases, which most often manifest during the childbearing years. Some of these diseases are more prevalent among certain ethnic groups as well. Other theories about potential causes of autoimmune diseases include environmental factors such as chemical exposure, nutritional factors such as eating a diet heavy in processed foods, and a lack of exposure to germs that causes the immune system to overreact or misfire.
Many autoimmune diseases share common symptoms in their early stages. These often include muscle aches, redness, swelling, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, low-grade fever, hair loss, skin rash, and tingling or numbness in the extremities.
While no single test to diagnose autoimmune diseases exists, we can typically make a diagnosis by ruling out conditions that cause similar symptoms. Although doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes autoimmune disease, treatments can help ease symptoms and improve quality of life for those with these conditions.
You can learn more about autoimmune disease, including the available treatment options, during a consultation at Restore Health & Beauty in Loveland. Contact our office today to book an appointment!