When we talk of war, we may think of the Middle East. For some, there is a different kind of war called autoimmunity. It is defined as the failure of an organism to recognize its own constituent parts as self, which allows an immune response against its own cells and tissues. What this essentially means is the body actually attacks its own cells. The body mistakes some parts of the body as the enemy and sends out an attack.
What are some autoimmune diseases?
There is an ongoing discussion about when a disease should be considered autoimmune. Although this list is incomplete, some of the more common autoimmune diseases are:
|Addison’s Disease||Goodpasture’s Syndrome|
|Ankylosing Spondylitis||Graves Disease|
|Chronic Fatigue||Interstitial Cystitis|
|Crohn’s Disease||Irritable Bowel Syndrome|
|Cushing’s Syndrome||Kawasaki’s Disease|
|Diabetes Mellitus Type 1||Lupus|
A substantial minority of the population suffers from these diseases, which are often chronic, debilitating, and life-threatening. There are more than eighty illnesses caused by autoimmunity. It has been estimated that autoimmune diseases are among the ten leading causes of death among women in all age groups up to 65 years.The only thing they have in common is nobody is certain what causes these diseases.
What are the symptoms of autoimmune disease?
The symptoms of autoimmune disease vary depending on the disease as well as the person’s immune system. Common symptoms include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Blood sugar changes
- Digestive or gastrointestinal problems
- Elevated fever and high body temperature
- Extreme sensitivity to cold in the hands and feet
- Infertility or reduced sex drive (low libido)
- Low or high blood pressure
- Weakness and stiffness in muscles and joints
- Weight Changes
And depending on the type of autoimmune disease:
- Destruction of an organ or tissue
- Increase in the size of an organ or tissue
Are there any treatments?
It is typically treated with immunosuppression – medications which decrease the immune response. The downside is that they are very costly and the results are unreliable at best. Taking a good look at stress factors and relief mechanisms, nutrition, hormones, and low dose naltrexone may be options to help alleviate symptoms for some of these diseases.