What are autoimmune diseases?
Autoimmune diseases are a group of over 80 different disorders that share a common feature: the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells and tissues, confusing them for foreign threats. Examples of autoimmune diseases include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and multiple sclerosis.
Diagnosis of autoimmune diseases
Diagnosing autoimmune diseases can be challenging because the symptoms are often nonspecific and can mimic other conditions. An internist or rheumatologist may perform a series of tests, including blood tests, imaging studies, and biopsies, to establish a diagnosis. It’s also important to gather a detailed medical history and report any unusual patient symptoms.
The treatment of autoimmune diseases aims to reduce the activity of the immune system and control the disease’s progression. The approach to treatment depends on the type and severity of the disease but may include:
Anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs – These medications reduce inflammation and immune system activity, helping to manage symptoms.
Biologic therapies – Innovative biologic drugs can effectively control certain autoimmune diseases by targeting specific components of the immune system.
Hormone therapy – In some cases, hormones such as corticosteroids can help alleviate symptoms.
Dietary and lifestyle changes – Some autoimmune diseases, like celiac disease, require a special diet. A healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity and a balanced diet, can help control symptoms.
Managing patients with autoimmune diseases
Managing patients with autoimmune diseases is an ongoing process. Patients need regular medical care, monitoring of their condition, and adjustments to their treatment as needed. Additionally, patients with autoimmune diseases may require psychological support because these conditions often impact their quality of life.
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