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Autoimmune Diseases

By Debbie Rockett PT

Autoimmune Disease

An autoimmune disease occurs as a result of your own immune system attacking heathy cells. Depending on the type of autoimmune disease it can affect one or many different types of body
tissue. It can cause abnormal organ growth and changes in organ function. There are as many as 80 + types of autoimmune diseases, many have similar symptoms, making it hard to diagnose. These types of diseases tend to fluctuate between times of remission (little or no symptoms) or flare ups (worsening symptoms). Treatment focus is on relieving symptoms as there is no curative therapy. Seventy five percent of patients are women. African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans are at increased risks of developing such a disease.

Below are some examples of the more commonly known AI diseases:

1. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Involves inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues
2. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): Affects skin, joints, kidneys, brain and other organs
3. Celiac disease: A reaction to gluten that leads to damage of the small intestine
4. Pernicious Anaemia: A decrease in red blood cells secondary to an inability to absorb vitaminB12
5. Scleroderma: A connective tissue disease that causes changes in skin, blood vessel, muscles and internal organs
6. Psoriasis: A skin condition that causes redness and irritation in addition to thick, flakey, silver white patches
7. Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A group of inflammatory diseases of the colon and small intestine
8. Hashimotto’s disease: Inflammation of the thyroid gland
9. Addison’s disease: Adrenal hormone insufficiency
10. Grave’s disease: Overactive Thyroid gland
11. Reactive arthritis: Inflammation of the joints, Urethra and eyes. May cause sores on the skin and mucous membranes
12. Sjogren’s syndrome: Destroys glands that produce tears ad saliva causing dry eyes and mouth. It may affect the Kidneys and Lungs
13. Type one diabetes: Destruction of insulin producing cells in the pancreas
14. Multiple Sclerosis: Causes disruption of myelin Sheath of nerves in the central nervous system. This system comprises the optic nerves, brain and spinal cord. The exact antigen or target that the immune cells are sensitized to attack remains unknown. For this reason, MS is known as an immune mediated disease rather than purely autoimmune

Medical Intervention includes:

1. HRT if necessary
2. Blood transfusions (if blood affected)
3. Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – when the joints affected
4. Immunosuppressing medications
5. Physical Therapy – PT can be helpful in decreasing pain and inflammation. Gentle stretching and strengthening, improving balance and patient education on self care. Care is always given in respect to the severity of the condition and the patient’s tolerance to treatment .


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