See what autoimmune diseases are and what precautions you should take

characterized by a immune system dysfunction, in which the antibodies start to fight healthy cells of the organism itself, the autoimmune diseases they are still little known and surrounded by many uncertainties.

In recent years, some autoimmune diseases have gained more visibility after artists and famous people openly talk about their conditions, as is the example of singer Selena Gomez, who is struggling with lupus; YouTuber Felipe Neto, who discovered he had Crohn’s Disease; and singer Sia, who suffers from Graves’ Disease.

Understand more about diseases, their causes and treatments below;

What is an autoimmune disease?

Rheumatoid arthritis is inflammation of the joints. (Source: Shutterstock/Reproduction)Fonte:  Shutterstock

To understand how an autoimmune disease works, it is necessary to know our immune system: it is responsible for recognizing foreign or dangerous substances and fighting them, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and even transplanted organs and tissues.

These substances are recognized through antigens, molecules that stimulate a response by the immune system, and are also present in the body’s own cells. When the system identifies its own tissues as foreign elements, it produces anomalous antibodies (autoantibodies) or cells that watch over and attack specific cells and tissues.

The reaction is called autoimmune and results in inflammation or tissue damage. Depending on the organ or tissue attacked by the system, it will be possible to determine which disease will develop, such as Crohn’s Disease that deals with the gastrointestinal tract, Diabetes, in which the reaction causes damage to the pancreas. There are also diseases such as lupus, in which healthy cells, in general, are attacked, causing inflammation that affects the kidneys, eyes, joints and skin.

Possible causes

It is not clear what causes an autoimmune reaction and why it affects certain people and not others. It is understood that certain genes make it more likely to develop a disease and it is more common in women, but there are still other unknown environmental factors that can have greater interference.

For example, a healthy cell in the body may undergo an alteration caused by a virus, medicine, sunlight or radiation, and the modified structure triggers a system reaction. It is still possible for a substance similar to another natural in the body to penetrate and thus trigger an attack on the similar substance, among other possibilities.

What are autoimmune diseases?

Graves' Disease is inflammation in the thyroid (Source: Shutterstock/Reproduction)Graves’ disease is inflammation of the thyroid. (Source: Shutterstock/Reproduction)Fonte:  Shutterstock

Some of the most common illnesses are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis — inflammation in the joints.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus — attacks healthy cells.
  • Tireoidite de Hashimoto — inflammation in the thyroid (insufficient production of hormones).
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus — affects the pancreas and insulin production.
  • Graves’ Disease — thyroid dysfunction (excessive hormone production).
  • Crohn’s disease – attacks or gastrointestinal treatment.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome — reaches the lacrimal and salivary glands.
  • Multiple sclerosis — affects the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord.
  • Vitiligo — destruction of melanin-producing cells.

AIDS and autoimmune diseases

Unlike what many people believe, a Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is not an autoimmune disease. Infection with the HIV virus causes a destruction of the immune system, triggering autoimmune reactions that can expose the seropositive to having several systems and tissues damaged by the immune system itself.

Crohn's disease is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that, in severe cases, can lead to the use of a colostomy bag (Source: Shutterstock/Reproduction)Crohn’s disease is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that, in severe cases, can lead to the use of a colostomy bag. (Source: Shutterstock/Reproduction)Fonte:  Shutterstock

Diagnosis and treatment

common signs

Early symptoms of an autoimmune disease are non-specific and can delay a diagnosis. Some of the most common are: red spots that worsen with sun exposure, tremors, loss of balance, joint pain, weakness and inflammation.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is performed by observing the signs and symptoms presented, varying according to the disease, and a detailed medical evaluation with the aid of physical, laboratory and imaging exams.

Through some laboratory tests, it is possible to identify ongoing inflammations, such as the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-Reactive Protein (CRP) tests. However, alterations in these exams do not always signify the presence of autoimmune diseases.

The treatment of type 1 diabetes mellitus requires the continuous application of insulin (Source: Shutterstock/Reproduction)The treatment of type 1 diabetes mellitus requires the continuous application of insulin. (Source: Shutterstock/Reproduction)Fonte:  Shutterstock

Examine FAN

The antinuclear factor test (ANA) can help in the diagnosis of autoimmune diseases by detect the presence of autoantibodies. A positive result is common in people with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Only the presence or absence of antibodies, however, is insufficient to make a diagnosis. The doctor will evaluate all factors in the patient’s history, in addition to imaging tests such as MRI, CT and ultrasound.

Treatment

The treatments are specific to each one, such as the daily application of insulin in people with type 1 diabetes mellitus. Some treatments, however, are more intense only in periods of crisis.

Is there a cure?

Autoimmune diseases are chronic and have no cure, however, it is possible that these people have a peaceful life through treatments that keep the symptoms under control and avoid sequelae.

In addition to the treatment, it is necessary to maintain a medical follow-up with regular appointments, the use of prescribed medications and a healthy routine — with a balanced diet and physical activity.

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