Autoimmune Disease

An autoimmune disease is a chronic, lifelong disorder that triggers the body’s own immune system to attack healthy tissue. According to the National Institutes of Health, over 80 different types of autoimmune diseases currently exist. However, they are not fully understood.

Common autoimmune diseases

The most common ones include Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and inflammatory bowel disease. Some people actually suffer from more than one autoimmune disease at the same time. It is estimated that roughly 23.5 million Americans are living with some kind of autoimmune disorder.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes affects the pancreas and leaves the body unable to produce insulin. As a result, daily insulin injections are necessary. Patients must also regularly monitor their glucose levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 1 diabetes makes up about 5 percent of diabetes cases. Rheumatoid arthritis is another common autoimmune disease that causes stiffness, pain and swelling of the joints. Crooked fingers are a hallmark of the condition.  

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that results in the immune system attacking the central nervous system. Lupus is a specifically dangerous autoimmune disease associated with inflammation. It can cause complications in major organs and typically affects women between the ages of 15 and 44. Inflammatory bowel disease creates chronic inflammation in the digestive tract.  

Treatment

Since different autoimmune diseases have their own distinct symptoms, treatment options vary. However, these diseases have no cure. But many treatment options do aim to manage symptoms and control the immune process. Some experts theorize that autoimmune disorders stem from society’s obsession with cleanliness (a theory known as the “hygiene hypothesis”). This idea suggests that reducing exposure to parasites hinders the body’s ability to prevent certain diseases. Some researchers believe that reintroducing parasites into the body might naturally regulate the immune system. Other research suggests that salt intake may exacerbate these disorders, as well.

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