- A healthy immune system protects the body against diseases and other potentially harmful foreign bodies.
- Autoimmune disorders arise when the immune system malfunctions, causing the body to attack its own healthy cells, tissues, and organs.
- Some common autoimmune disorders include type 1 diabetes, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease.
A healthy immune system typically defends the body against disease and infection. But when the immune system crashes, the body attacks its own healthy cells, tissues, and organs by mistake. These attacks, which are in the form of autoimmune disorders, negatively impact any part of the body.
Immune deficiency diseases bring down the body’s ability to combat foreign substances, leading to increased susceptibility to infections that weaken bodily functions.
While most autoimmune disorders have no cure, some treatments can reduce symptoms by lowering immune system activity.
Read on to learn more about some autoimmune diseases and corresponding treatment options.
1. Rheumatoid arthritis
This condition occurs when the immune system attacks the linings of joints, causing inflammation and pain. If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis eventually progresses to permanent joint damage.
Doctors usually prescribe oral or injectable medications to decrease overactivity of the immune system.
2. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
SLE is the most common type of lupus where the autoimmune antibodies attack its own tissues, causing widespread tissue damage and inflammation in the joints, lungs, blood cells, nerves, and kidneys.
Taking the steroid oral prednisone daily is needed to lessen overactive immune systems.
3. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
In IBD, the immune system attacks the linings of intestines, causing diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss. The most common forms of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Oral and injected immune-suppressing medicines can relieve IBD symptoms.
4. Multiple sclerosis (MS)
The immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath that protects the nerves, causing pain, blindness, poor coordination, muscles spasms, and weakness.
MD medications may reduce symptoms and the underlying disease process.
5. Type 1 diabetes mellitus
The immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce the hormone insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels.
People with type 1 diabetes manage the condition with daily insulin injections.
6. Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)
GBS is a rare autoimmune disorder that occurs when the healthy nerves in the legs, and sometimes in the arms and upper body, are attacked, resulting in muscle weakness that can be severe.
GBS is treated with plasmapheresis or plasma exchange to treat and prevent further nerve damage.
7. Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)
Closely related to Guillain-Barre, CIDP is caused by damage to the nerves. People can stay confined to a wheelchair if not detected and treated earlier.
Treatment for both CIDP and GBS are generally the same.
Psoriasis is caused by an overstimulated immune system where the skin produces too many new skin cells. Symptoms of this condition include scaly skin, itching, and pain.
Treatment options include various drugs, topical ointments, and UV light therapy.
9. Graves’ disease
This disease causes the thyroid gland to become overactive (hyperthyroidism), causing a range of symptoms that include bulging eyes, weight loss, racing heartbeat, brittle hair, muscle weakness, irritability, and nervousness
Various medications can be used to lower thyroid hormone levels. In severe cases, doctors may recommend removing a part or the whole thyroid gland.
10. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
This condition occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, making it produce less thyroid hormones. Usually, these attacks, which are called hypothyroidism, develop over a long time. An underactive thyroid contributes to fatigue, constipation, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, depression, and dry skin.
Increasing thyroid hormone levels requires a daily dose of oral synthetic thyroid hormone pill.
11. Myasthenia gravis (MG)
This rare neuromuscular disorder that causes skeletal muscle weakness occurs when antibodies damage the communication between nerve cells and muscles.
Mestinon (pyridostigmine) is mainly used to treat MG.
Vasculitis happens when the body’s immune system attacks and harms blood vessels. Since any organ can be affected, symptoms vary.
Treatments that lower immune system activity include prednisone or another corticosteroid.