Different Types of Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases can be organ-specific, meaning one body part affected only; or they can be systemic, meaning multiple body parts affected simultaneously.
Some examples of organ-specific autoimmune diseases are multiple sclerosis (brain and nerves), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease (thyroid), Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (intestines). These conditions are treated by their respective specialists; a neurologist, an endocrinologist, and a gastroenterologist.
Systemic autoimmune diseases commonly involve the musculoskeletal system plus other organs. These are treated by the rheumatologist and arthritis specialist. Some examples of systemic autoimmune diseases are lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, dermatomyositis. While these conditions can affect the joints, tendons, and muscles, they can also affect other organs such as skin, nerves, kidney, and lungs.
Common symptoms of autoimmune disease
Symptoms of autoimmune disease depend on which organ or body part is affected. For example, people with Crohn’s disease may present with bloody diarrhea; those with multiple sclerosis may have numbness, tingling or vision loss; and people with rheumatoid arthritis present with finger and toe joint pain and swelling.
People with any autoimmune disease can have what are called “constitutional symptoms” which is a term for nonspecific symptoms associated with a general feeling of being unwell. These symptoms include fevers, chills, night sweats, muscle aches, weight loss, fatigue, or weakness.
How Could One Develop an Autoimmune Disease?
There is still much to learn about what causes autoimmune diseases, but the current general consensus is that it is a “perfect storm” of hereditary and environmental factors. Examples of possible triggers are genes, foods, and infectious organisms.
HLA-B27 is the name of a gene that is associated with an increased risk for spondyloarthropathy, which refers to a group of related conditions including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, enteropathic arthritis. This gene can run in families and make people at higher risk for these conditions, however it is not an absolute or definite risk factor. Some people also have this gene and are completely healthy. Gluten is a well known trigger for Celiac Disease, and also implicated as a trigger for autoimmunity in general.
How Are Autoimmune Disorders Diagnosed?
There isn’t a single test that you can take that can diagnose an autoimmune disease. In fact, it can take a lot of time and patience while you and your doctor navigate the journey of getting you properly diagnosed. Your doctor will start by reviewing your family medical history, your own history and performing a physical examination so they can determine if an autoimmune disease is suspected. Blood tests, labs and x-rays may also be relevant to helping you get diagnosed.
Though autoimmune diseases cannot be cured, they can be controlled with anti-inflammatory medications that are relevant to the condition. To reduce or lessen symptoms of an autoimmune disease, it’s best to avoid any triggers if an underlying cause is identified, such as gluten being a trigger for Celiac Disease. Optimizing your lifestyle can also be beneficial to reducing your symptoms and can easily be done by eating a whole food diet, staying active and taking supplements when appropriate.
Schedule an Appointment
You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Lomibao by calling our office or filling out our Request Appointment form. Lomibao Rheumatology & Wellness Care is a full-service rheumatology clinic with an on-site infusion lounge, and telehealth services available for established patients. Lomibao Rheumatology & Wellness Care is currently accepting new patients, and we welcome you to join our family by contacting us today!
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