Autoimmune conditions are a diverse group of disorders that arise when the immune system mistakenly recognizes healthy cells and tissues in the body as foreign and launches an attack against them. These conditions can affect various organs and systems, leading to a wide range of symptoms and health implications. With more than 80 known autoimmune diseases that affect millions of people around the world, understanding these conditions is crucial for early detection, proper management, and improved quality of life.
The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown. One theory is that some microorganisms (such as bacteria or viruses) or drugs may trigger changes that confuse the immune system. This may happen more often in people who have genes that make them more prone to autoimmune disorders. Some common risk factors include a family history of autoimmune conditions, certain infections, exposure to environmental triggers, hormonal imbalances, and gender (as some conditions disproportionately affect women).
Common Autoimmune Conditions
Autoimmune conditions encompass a wide range of disorders. Well-known examples are rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, Grave’s disease, psoriasis, celiac disease, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Each condition has unique characteristics and symptoms.
Symptoms of Autoimmune Conditions
Symptoms of autoimmune conditions can vary widely depending on the specific disease and the affected organs. However, there are commonalities such as fatigue, joint and muscle pain, inflammation, skin rashes, gastrointestinal disturbances, fever, and general malaise. Recognizing these signs is crucial for early intervention.
Diagnosing Autoimmune Conditions
Diagnosing autoimmune conditions can be a challenge due to their complex and overlapping symptoms. Healthcare professionals employ a combination of medical history, physical examinations, and blood tests to detect autoantibodies, imaging studies, and sometimes, tissue biopsies to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Collaboration between patients and doctors is essential for an efficient diagnostic process.
How We Treat Autoimmune Conditions
Everyone’s immune system is different thanks to genetics and environment. That means your treatment must be unique.
Some examples of medications used to treat autoimmune diseases include:
- Medications for depression and anxiety
- Insulin injections
- Sleeping medications
- Plasma exchanges
- Rash creams and pills
- Intravenous immune globulin
The specialist you need depends on the type of autoimmune disease you have. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a:
Your healthcare provider will encourage you to maintain a balanced and nutrient-rich diet, exercise regularly, manage stress levels, prioritize sleep, and avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Support groups and counseling are also excellent at providing emotional and psychological support, helping individuals cope with the challenges of living with an autoimmune condition.
Autoimmune conditions are complex and diverse, impacting numerous individuals worldwide. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of autoimmune conditions, obtaining an accurate diagnosis, and implementing effective treatment strategies are crucial for improving your life. With a collaborative approach between patients, healthcare professionals, and researchers, we can continue striving towards a future with improved understanding, prevention, and treatment of autoimmune conditions.
If you suspect you may have an autoimmune condition or require further evaluation and treatment, schedule an appointment with our Rheumatology team at SMC Physicians today. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive care, tailored to your unique needs, and helping you manage your autoimmune condition for a better quality of life.
Conditions We Treat
We provide ultrasound-guided arthrocentesis (joint injections) of both steroids and gel injections such as Orthovisc and Synvisc.
We offer a state-of-the art private infusion center at each location, offering the following medications and more:
Our Rheumatology Locations: