Saturday, September 03, 2016

Autoimmune Disease Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

Autoimmune Disease Symptoms

Symptoms of autoimmune disease vary and depend on the type of autoimmune disease. Here is a quick overview of some of the symptoms of the most common autoimmune diseases:

Celiac disease: Inflammation and pain in the abdomen, chest burning, tiredness, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Rheumatoid arthritis: Painful swelling and stiffness of the joints, particularly in the hands and feet.

Psoriasis: Joint pain, dry skin, skin rashes, and itchiness.

Inflammatory bowel disease: Stomach cramps, bloating, bloody diarrhea, nausea, and constipation.

Addison's disease: Tiredness, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, dizziness, dehydration, and loss of appetite.

Type 1 diabetes: Frequent urination, increased thirst, loss of energy, blurred vision, hunger, and nausea.

Vitiligo: Loss of skin color (especially noticeable in darker-skinned patients).

Hashimoto's disease: Weight gain, tiredness, depression, joint stiffness, and increased sensitivity to cold.

Graves' disease: Weight loss, anxiety, shaky hands, high blood pressure, and sweating.

Lupus: Muscle and joint pain, rash, tiredness, and fever.
Since many autoimmune diseases share similar symptoms, diagnosis is often challenging.

For example, lupus affects the joints in a similar way to RA but tends to be less severe. Lyme disease also causes joint stiffness and inflammation similarly to RA but is caused by a tick.

IBD has similar symptoms to celiac disease but is not typically caused by eating foods containing gluten.

Symptoms and Signs of an Autoimmune Disease

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially a combination of several of them, you may have an autoimmune disease:

  • Uncontrolled blood sugar, especially as a child or young adult
  • Joint pain, muscle pain or weakness or a tremor
  • Weight loss, insomnia, heat intolerance or rapid heartbeat
  • Recurrent rashes or hives, sun-sensitivity, a butterfly-shaped rash across your nose and cheeks.
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Feeling tired or fatigued, weight gain or cold intolerance
  • Hair loss or white patches on your skin or inside your mouth
  • Abdominal pain, blood or mucus in your stool, diarrhea or mouth ulcers
  • Dry eyes, mouth or skin
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Multiple miscarriages or blood clots

Diagnosis of Autoimmune Diseases

The following are some of the medical tests used to diagnose an autoimmune disease:

  • Autoantibody tests: any of several tests that look for specific antibodies to your own tissues
  • Antinuclear antibody tests: a type of autoantibody test that looks for antinuclear antibodies, which attack the nuclei of cells in your body
  • Complete blood count: measures the numbers of red and white cells in your blood; when your immune system is actively fighting something, these numbers will vary from the normal
  • C-reactive protein (CRP): elevated CRP is an indication of inflammation throughout your body
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate: this test indirectly measures how much inflammation is in your body

Diagnosis Differences
The diagnosis of autoimmune disease differs based on the specific disease. Rheumatoid arthritis, for example, may be diagnosed after a physical exam, blood test, or X-ray. These tests can determine the type of arthritis as well as how severe it is.

Diseases can sometimes take years to diagnose because many symptoms of autoimmune disorders mimic other diseases. Conditions like lupus and celiac disease may be misdiagnosed in their early stages because their symptoms are so similar to other diseases.

Hashimoto's disease and Graves' disease are a bit simpler to diagnose as they usually rely on a simple thyroid test. This test determines levels of thyroid hormone.

An autoimmune disease usually centers around the immune system and the antibodies produced by this system. As a result, diagnosis often involves testing for specific antibodies.

A complete blood count may be ordered to measure the amount of white and red blood cells. When the immune system is fighting something, the number of white and red blood cells will differ from normal levels.

Other tests can determine if there is any unusual inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a symptom that is fairly common among all autoimmune diseases. These tests include a C-reactive protein test and an erythrocyte sedimentation rate test.

A doctor should be seen right away as soon as symptoms begin. While symptoms may not always be caused by an autoimmune disease, it's best to tackle any issues right away than wait for them to get worse.

Medical Treatment Strategies
Unfortunately, conventional doctors only treat the symptoms of autoimmune diseases; they don't look to find the root cause. Often, they prescribe medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, or immunosuppressants.

All of these treatments fail to address the underlying cause of the autoimmune condition in the first place and, while they may be effective in the short term, they are not a long-term solution. Treatments involving immunosuppressant drugs increase the risk of severe infections and cancer when taken for long periods of time.

Medical treatments include:

  • Hormone replacement therapy, if necessary
  • Blood transfusions, if blood is affected
  • Anti-inflammatory medication, if joints are affected
  • Pain medication
  • Immunosuppressive medication
  • Physical therapy

Alternative Treatment Strategies
If you suspect that you have an autoimmune disease, the most important steps to stopping and reversing your disease and symptoms are to identify and then to treat the underlying root cause.

Identifying which autoimmune disease is affecting you can be a difficult process. Symptoms may be vague, and autoimmune diseases can present themselves in so many different ways, affecting the thyroid, the brain, the skin, or other organs.

Work closely with a functional medicine physician or naturopathic doctor to help you with a proper diagnosis. A proper diagnosis is key to getting well.

Ensure that they review your family medical history, and understand your risk factors for infections, food sensitivities and toxins, as well as listen to your body closely to discover how all of your symptoms are related. And, you should keep a food diary to track how you're feeling and when you have a specific flareup,

All of this is an essential part of diagnosing your problem and getting well. A functional medicine physician, naturopathic doctor or similar alternative health professional will help to narrow down which labs they recommend in order to help find the root cause of your condition.

Then, they can help you design a nutritional and overall wellness program to treat your disease.

The following alternative therapies have provided relief for some people:

  • Nutritional therapy
  • Raw Juicing therapy
  • Detox therapy
  • Herbal therapy
  • Chiropractic therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Naturopathy
  • Homeopathy
  • Hypnosis

References: (American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association)

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Types of Autoimmune Diseases

There are several different types of autoimmune disease that may affect different organs and systems in the body.

There are nearly 80 different types of autoimmune disorders. While some like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are quite common, some are rarer.

Autoimmune diseases that affect multiple organ systems

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) – this is a chronic auto-inflammatory disease. It is seen more commonly among females. The diagnostic tests are usually positive for antibodies against nuclear proteins including nucleic DNA and RNA. Some of triggers for flare ups include UV radiation, viral infections and stress.
  • Acquired Autoimmune Disorders caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection is also seen. Infection with HIV causes destruction of the immune system leading to damage to several organ systems and tissues.

Autoimmune diseases that affect the eyes

  • Acute anterior uveitis – this is the commonest inflammatory disease of the iris of the eyes. There is a strong genetic association with HLA-B27.
  • Sj√∂gren's Syndrome – an autoimmune disease in which the immune system damages the glands that make moisture, such as tears and saliva.


  • Ankylosing Spondylitis – this is a common form of chronic, inflammatory arthritis that is caused by autoimmune pathology. It affects the joints in the spine and the sacroiliac joints of the pelvis leading to severe pain, deformity and disability.
  • Reactive Arthritis or Reiter's Syndrome – this is usually triggered by an infection. There are three classic symptoms of this condition including inflammatory arthritis of large joints (commonly knees and lower back), inflammation of the eyes with either  conjunctivitis or  uveitis and presence of urethritis in men (urethral inflammation) or cervicitis (cervical inflammation) in women.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – this is an autoimmune disorder affecting the tissues in the joints. It leads to severe damage of cartilage in the joints leading to inflammation. Other organs such as lungs, pericardium, pleura, and sclera of the eyes may also be affected.

Autoimmune diseases affecting hormone producing organs

  • Diabetes Mellitus Type 1 – here the autoantibodies affect and target the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas leading to their severe deficiency. The lack of insulin leads to increased blood and urine glucose.
  • Autoimmune Pancreatitis – this is an inflammatory condition that affects the pancreas.
  • 21 - Hydroxylase Deficiency – this condition affects the adrenal glands. This condition leads to excess production of androgens, which are male sex hormones.
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis – this condition leads to inflammatory cells targeting cells of the thyroid causing them to be destroyed leading to an underactive thyroid gland. Chronic thyroiditis or Hashimoto's disease may being at any age are is often common among middle-aged women.
  • Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland that leads to an overactive thyroid gland.

Autoimmune diseases affecting the skin

  • Scleroderma – this type of autoimmune disorder commonly affects the connective tissues of skin and blood vessels, muscles, and internal organs. The disease usually affects women more commonly between ages 30 and 50 years.
  • Dermatomyositis – this condition results in inflammation of muscles and a skin rash. It may affect persons with cancers of the lungs, abdomen or other organs.
  • Psoriasis – this is an autoimmune skin disease. There is excessive growth of the new cells underneath the layers of skin.
  • Vitiligo – in this condition the cells that give pigment to the skin are destroyed leading to formation of white de-pigmented patches.
  • Alopecia areata is seen when the immune system attacks hair follicles or the roots of the hair.

Autoimmune diseases affecting the nerves

  • Multiple sclerosis – this is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and the nerves. The autoimmune cells cause damage to the myelin sheath that normally acts as the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells.
  • Myasthenia gravis – in this condition the immune system attacks the nerves and muscles leading to severe weakness

Autoimmune diseases affecting the blood and blood vessels

  • Polyarteritis nodosa – this is a severe autoimmune disease affecting the small and medium-sized arteries that become inflamed and damaged. The risk of this condition rises with hepatitis b and C infections.
  • Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome leading to damage to blood vessels
  • Hemolytic anemia – this type of anemia is caused when the immunological cells damage the blood cells.
  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) – this causes damage to the blood platelets that are essential to formation of blood clots.

Autoimmune diseases affecting the gastrointestinal system

  • Autoimmune Hepatitis – this type affects the liver when the body’s immune cells attack cells of the liver. There is a genetic predisposition to this condition. Autoimmune hepatitis affects 1-2 people per 100,000 per year and affects women much more often than men (70%). 
  • Celiac disease – this is caused when the intestines react to foods containing gluten (e.g. wheat).
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – this condition leads to severe and chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the commonest forms of IBD.
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis – in this condition the immune system slowly destroys the liver’s bile ducts.