The immune system is a network of proteins and cells produced to protect the body from bacteria, toxins, infection, and inflammation. It has the ability to detect the difference between healthy microbes and destroys those that it deems as a threat to the system. This makes it possible for individuals to survive an environment full of parasites and bacteria. As long as we’re alive, the immune system is constantly making these decisions in order to sustain top-notch health, however every now and then, it’s possible for the immune system to make a mistake. Sometimes, a weakened immune system may accidentally allow bacteria to seep into the system and cause infection. Other times, abnormalities of the immune system may cause it to attack healthy cells, leading to an autoimmune disorder.
The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) estimates that approximately 50 million people worldwide are impacted by autoimmunity with 23.5 million of them residing in the United States. Additionally, with 80 to 100 different types of autoimmune diseases, it’s possible that these conditions are more common than they appear, and may even be considered an epidemic. Certain autoimmune diseases are considered rare conditions, meanwhile other autoimmune diseases are very common. Below are the top six most common autoimmune disorders and how they affect the system, listed from least to most common.
6. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (also known as Hashimoto’s or lymphocytic thyroiditis) is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and impairment within the thyroid gland. This affects the thyroid’s ability to produce thyroid hormones that the body needs to function. It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism and mainly affects middle-aged women. Early symptoms of the disease may be unnoticeable, however some may report swelling in the front of their throat. Other symptoms include unexplained weight gain, constipation, joint pain, pale skin, enlarged tongue, sensitivity to cold, hair loss, or prolonged menstrual bleeding (in women). If the disease remains untreated, it can lead to chronic thyroid damage and drop the thyroid hormone levels within the blood.
5. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes inflammatory bowel disease as chronic inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract¹. This autoimmune disease can be categorized between Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis depending on the affected area of the G.I Tract. Usually, IBD can occur due to numerous factors, however in many cases, the immune system can play a role and cause an autoimmune response. Symptoms of the disease includes bleeding ulcers, mild to severe abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, bloating and diarrhea. In severe cases, patients with this disease can suffer from malnutrition and could be placed in a life-threatening situation if they cannot sustain a healthy weight.
4. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
SLE is the most common type of lupus that occurs when the immune system attacks its own tissues, thus causing inflammation and tissue damage throughout the body. The disease can often be treated and managed if caught early enough, however if it remains untreated, it has the potential of becoming life-threatening. Furthermore, the disease can cause several complications with both short-term and long-term effects on multiple organs including kidneys, heart, brain, and lungs. Symptoms of the disease are often unnoticeable since they’re confused with other illnesses, however a few more obvious signs include a facial butterfly rash and extreme fatigue.
3. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
MS is a neurological autoimmune disease that can damage nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. In a normal nervous system, the brain sends quick messages to each organ, which controls every movement and decision that is made. Those who suffer from MS may have slower impulses and disrupted transmission signals. The cause of the disease is unknown, however there are multiple symptoms that could indicate an onset of the condition. These symptoms include fatigue, impaired coordination, memory issues, communication issues, sexual dysfunction, itching, muscle spasms, and tingling sensations in the body.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
RA occurs when the immune system accidentally attacks healthy cells and causes inflammation within the joints. The amount of pain, swelling and areas affected may vary from patient-to-patient, however most patients suffering from RA will feel inflammation and damage to different joint tissues. Depending on how much damage is done can determine whether or not an individual experiences chronic pain, deformity or unsteadiness. Signs of the disease may initially be minor but gradually develop over a period of time. Symptoms of the condition includes stiffness in more than one joint, weight loss, fever, weakness, fatigue and the same area on both sides of the body being impacted.
1. Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes (also known as juvenile diabetes) is a condition that develops in mostly young children which occurs when the pancreas does not produce insulin or the immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells. Much like its sister condition, Type 2 Diabetes, the condition has no official cure, but can be treated and managed effectively to ensure that the individual is still able to have a healthy quality of life. However, if the condition remains untreated, it can cause various complications including cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, fertility issues, and skin conditions. Some common indications of the disease are frequent urination, weight loss, fatigue, extreme hunger, confusion, bed wetting, and increased thirst.
Treating Your Autoimmunity at LifeWorks
Other common autoimmune diseases include Graves’ disease, Addison’s disease, psoriasis, hemolytic anemia, Celiac disease, and scleroderma. Depending on the type of autoimmune disease that one has determines the patient’s appropriate treatment plan. At LifeWorks Wellness Center, an autoimmune treatment includes intravenous therapies to supply the patient with nutrients and minerals, Ozone therapies, supplementation, peptides and dietary changes.
If you or someone that you know is suffering with an autoimmune disease or feels chronically ill, please call to schedule an appointment at 727-466-6789.