We have heard of autoimmune disease but what does that mean. It turns out that there are many autoimmune diseases. Their similarity is that the immune system attacks the body’s cells. Well that’s pretty strange… why would our body attack itself?
The purpose of the immune system is to attack unwanted viruses and bacteria that enter the body; it does this in order to keep us healthy and that is great! For each unwanted virus or bacteria that our body encounters, the immune system creates an antibody which is used every time that particular invader enters the body. This is a good system but it seems that some of the invaders that the immune system attacks are very similar to our own tissues. Hmmm… there is the problem… but in most people the immune system knows the difference.
The many autoimmune diseases are called by different names depending on what part of the body is being attacked by the immune system. Here is a short list of some examples. I believe you will recognize several of these and there are many others.
Alzheimers: a memory disorder
Arthritis: A general term for more than 100 different diseases that affect the joints, frequently the hands and fingers.
Asthma: Attacks the lungs, causing them to shut off in certain situations. Can be fatal without proper treatment.
Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease (AIED) or Meniers Disease: Attacks the inner ear; causes hearing loss, a loss of balance and dizziness (vertigo).
Celiac Disease: Attacks the lining of the small intestine, making it impossible to digest gluten found in flour and wheat products.
Colitis: Attacks the colon, causing abdominal pain and bloody stools.
Crohn’s Disease: An inflammatory disease of the small intestine or colon that causes diarrhea, cramps, and excessive weight loss. Similar to Colitis, but can attack any part of the digestive system.
Eczema: Attacks the skin, causing red, flaky lesions that may itch.
Fibromyalgia: Attacks multiple parts of the body, causing fatigue and chronic pain that often moves from one part of the body to another.
Grave’s Disease: Attacks the thyroid, causing it to swell. This can choke off the esophagus and windpipe, and the overactive thyroid can cause sleeplessness and rapid heartbeat.
Guillian-Barre Syndrome: Attacks the nervous system. Symptoms generally begin as a feeling of weakness in the lower legs that quickly spreads to other parts of the body.
Hepatitis: In some cases, hepatitis can be caused by the immune system attacking the liver, although viruses and alcohol consumption are more common causes. Symptoms include dark urine, fatigue, itching, abdominal pain and loss of appetite.
Lupus: Attacks all parts of the body. Causes fatigue, joint swelling, muscle aches, seizures and a variety of other problems.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease: The general name for diseases that cause inflammation in the intestine, the most common of which are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Multiple Sclerosis: A disease in which the immune system attacks the protective coating called myelin around the nerves. The damage affects the brain and/or spinal cord and interferes with the nerve pathways, causing muscular weakness, loss of coordination, and visual and speech problems.
Myasthenia gravis: A disease in which the immune system attacks the nerves and muscles in the neck, causing weakness and problems with seeing, chewing, and/or talking.
Parkinson disease: causes slowness and a flexed posture with tremors is a autoimmune diseases.
Psoriasis: A skin disease results in scaling and inflammation.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: A chronic and more dangerous form of arthritis, it primarily attacks the joints but can also attack other connecting tissues as well as the heart and lungs. Early symptoms include stiffness, fatigue and muscle weakness.
Ulcerative colitis: A disease that causes ulcers in the top layers of the lining of the large intestine. This leads to abdominal pain and diarrhea.
Vitiligo: Attacks the skin, causing a loss of pigmentation in the affected areas. Appears as splotches of pale white skin that may spread.
It seems that this problem can locate itself anywhere in our body and the results are not good ones. Next time we’ll discover more about how this happens. In the meantime, stay well and at each meal be sure to…