Did you know that autoimmune diseases are common and that it is estimated more than 23.5 million Americans are affected by them? In fact, autoimmune diseases are the leading cause of death and disability. However, the term “autoimmune disease” encompasses over a hundred different conditions that vary in their occurrence, severity, and areas of the body that are affected. Simply stated, autoimmune conditions can affect individuals differently depending on the type and severity of the condition.
Since autoimmune diseases can affect the body differently, you may be wondering why they are all grouped together. This is because all autoimmune diseases affect the immune system. The immune system is the body’s natural defense against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders. To keep the body healthy, the immune system produces antibodies that attack bacteria, viruses, and foreign invaders.
In someone with an autoimmune disease, however, the immune system is unable to differentiate from normal cells and invader cells. This ultimately leads to the body creating autoantibodies, which attack normal cells. The location and type of these cells determines the type of autoimmune disease, as well as how it affects the body. In some cases, more than one area of the body can be affected.
Even though there are different types of autoimmune conditions that can affect multiple parts of the body, most of these conditions have similar symptoms in the early stages. Generally speaking, symptoms that can indicate the presence of an autoimmune condition include:
- Low-grade fever
- Achy muscles
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Swelling and redness
- Skin rashes
- Hair loss
- Trouble concentrating
In addition to these symptoms, you may also experience additional symptoms that are specific to a certain type of autoimmune condition. Depending on the type of condition, you may also notice that your symptoms are not constant. When your symptoms come and go, it is known as a flare up when you are experiencing symptoms.
Unfortunately, it is not currently known what causes autoimmune disorders to develop, however potential risk factors such as gender, ethnicity, and genetics have been noted. Research also indicates that infections, chemical exposure, and poor diet may also contribute to the development of autoimmune disorders. This theory is primarily based on the fact that the number of cases is steadily increasing.
Another theory is that autoimmune disorders can occur as a result of being “too clean”. Simply stated, this means that your immune system has not been exposed to enough foreign contaminants and doesn’t know how to recognize the difference between normal and foreign cells. This theory is primarily based upon the fact that autoimmune diseases predominantly occur in developed countries and rarely affect those in lesser developed countries without modern amenities.
In most cases, treatment for autoimmune disorders generally involves medications that reduce inflammation and the immune system response. However, some people have experienced symptom relief by addressing the cause of inflammation directly. This is usually accomplished through lifestyle modifications and careful observation. Identifying and eliminating possible toxins are another way to relieve symptoms from an autoimmune condition.
Dr. Paulvin is an innovative physician in the study of Functional Medicine, Integrative Sports Medicine, Regenerative medicine, Osteopathic Manipulation and Craniosacral Therapy. He works with patients to not only treat but find the root cause of autoimmune issues, thyroid and hormone imbalances, digestive and gut disorders and a number of inflammatory based conditions. Uniquely combining Osteopathic Manipulation and Functional Medicine to fast track healing, recovery and biomechanics to progress athleticism. Synergistically utilizing eastern and western medicine, lab testing and reviews, lifestyle wellness, and manual therapy to treat injuries, inflammation patients and optimizers are set on their path quicker.