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80 Types of Autoimmune Diseases

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

The way your body works with autoimmune disease.

The way your body works with autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune Disorders

Did you know there are many more than 80 types of autoimmune disorders? So I promise not to list all of them. I will briefly cover the more common autoimmune diseases that I haven’t written about in the past. Some of the most well-known autoimmune diseases are Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Disease, and Systemic Lupus, so there is a wealth of information on the internet. You can read detailed information on those diseases.

In a normal person, the body’s immune response protects them from invading diseases and infections. In a person with an autoimmune disorder, things have gone haywire. Your body doesn’t recognize invaders from your healthy tissue, your white blood cells or T cells attack healthy organs. They can virtually affect every part of your body. These diseases usually attack women, particularly prevalent in African-American and Native-American women.

Many autoimmune disorders have similar symptoms, which makes a diagnosis that much more difficult. Often this process is frustrating, as your first symptoms are fatigue, muscle aches, and low fever.

The diseases sometimes flare-up and sometimes go into remission. Most autoimmune diseases affect women more often than men, but men seem to become very ill more frequently.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is another chronic inflammatory disorder that affects not just your joints, but many other organs as well. This disease is different from osteoarthritis as it affects the lining of your joints. This may result in the painful joints, bone erosion and deformity of the joints.

The symptoms of this disease include:

  • Tender, warm, swollen joints
  • Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity
  • Fatigue, fever and weight loss

It can also attack your lungs, your heart, your eyes, skin and blood vessels. While there have been new drugs placed on the market, this can be a very debilitating disease.

The earlier the inflammation can be stopped the better. Aggressive treatment with medications is important. Prednisone, NSAIDs, methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine, leflunomide, cyclophosphamide, and azathioprine, all typical medications for this disease.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is another autoimmune disease characterized by an inappropriate immune response to dietary proteins found in wheat, rye, barley (gluten and gliadin).

This response leads to inflammation of the small intestine and it damages and destroys the villi that line the intestinal wall. These villi are projections (small folds) that increase the surface area of the intestine and allow nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fluids, and electrolytes to be absorbed into the body.

When the villi are destroyed, the body is much less capable of absorbing food and begins to develop symptoms associated with malnutrition and malabsorption. When the body is exposed to the gluten and gliadin proteins, it forms antibodies that recognize and act against not only the grain-proteins, but also against constituents of the intestinal villi. As long as the patient continues to be exposed to the proteins, he will continue to produce these auto-antibodies.

Celiac disease is most prevalent in those of European descent, probably inherited, can affect anyone at any age. It is thought to be an inherited tendency that is triggered by an environmental, emotional, or physical event.

The possible symptoms include:

  1. abdominal pain and distention
  2. anemia
  3. bleeding tendency
  4. bloody stool
  5. bone and joint pain
  6. changes in dental enamel
  7. diarrhea
  8. fatigue
  9. greasy foul-smelling stools
  10. oral ulceration, weakness
  11. weight loss.

Children with this disease may experience delayed growth and development. It is estimated that 1 in 133 people in the US have celiac disease but only 3% have been diagnosed.

Patients with celiac disease must follow a lifelong gluten-free diet .Once all forms of wheat, rye, and barley have been removed from the diet the patient improves.

It is important to detect and treat celiac disease as soon as possible, especially in young children. Celiac disease should be considered in infants who are not thriving, since foods with gluten are common Celiac auto-antibodies may begin to develop shortly after a child switches from milk to solid foods. In most cases the patient can lead a normal life by adhering to the diet.

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Fortunately there are many gluten free foods available today.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic lupus is one of the diseases where your body attacks the skin, joints, blood cells, kidneys, brain, and other organs. The sun, infections and certainly medications can trigger a flare up. A "butterfly rash" is a facial rash, resembling the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks with a red rash.

While this is not considered a genetic disease, it does tend to run in families. More women than men get lupus, and the percentage is higher for African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. Over 50 million people have lupus, which tends to be diagnosed between the ages of 15-44 years of age.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose or rashes elsewhere on the body
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud's phenomenon)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, confusion and memory loss

Many patients also have Sjogren's Disease, which causes dry eyes, mouth, and nose. The symptoms are treated, but it is difficult to diagnose or treat.

There is no cure for this systemic lupus and the only medication treatments. Plaquenil, prednisone, NSAIDs, Methotrexate, and finally we have Benestyl, which is just for systemic lupus. This is the first new drug-specific to lupus in fifty years.

Bisphosphonates therapy is another way rheumatologists are treating lupus patients. They are using medications that protect the bones, as drugs like prednisone end with osteoporosis.

This is What Happens When You Have an Autoimmune Disease

Scleroderma

This is in a group of rare, progressive diseases that involve hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body. Localized scleroderma affects only the skin. Systemic scleroderma also harms internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and digestive tract. Scientists estimate that about 250 people per million have some form of scleroderma.

The most prevalent signs of this disease include Raynaud’s phenomenon, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), which in addition to acid reflux you may have trouble absorbing nutrients. Your skin changes and may include swollen fingers and hands, thickened patches of skin, particularly on the fingers; and tight skin around the hands, face or mouth. The skin will appear shiny because it is so tight.

I have a friend with this disease, and she must wear a restrictive binding on her left arm from the top to her wrist, which means she always wears long sleeves. That is not much fun living in Florida.

This disease affects not only your skin but also your blood vessels and internal organs; there are sub-categories defined by what area of the body is being attacked.

One is called CREST and results from an overproduction and accumulation of collagen in body tissues. Native Americans get this disease 20 times more often than the general population, and it is more common with Afro-Americans as well.

It occurs 4 times more often in women than men. While there is no known cause, exposure to silica dust, common in coal mines and rock quarries, some industrial solvents such as paint thinners and certain chemotherapy drugs may exacerbate the disease.

There is no cure and treatment is typically the same as that for lupus patients, corticosteroids, Plaquenil, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Polymyositis

This is another uncommon connective tissue disease, which is characterized by muscle inflammation and progressive weakness. This is particularly true in skeletal muscles, which control movement, involving those closest to the trunk of the body first. It most commonly occurs in 30 to 50-year-old people.