Your body’s immune system plays a critical role in keeping you healthy. When it functions as it should, it fights off germy invaders and keeps you from getting sick.
Sometimes, though, your body’s soldiers get mixed messages from the general — your brain. When this occurs, your immune system launches an attack against healthy tissue, leading to complications. Here are eight types of autoimmune diseases that are little understood, but which deserve treatment and care.
Lupus is a chronic disease that can cause inflammation and pain in any part of your body. It primarily impacts women — 9 out of 10 patients are female. It often affects your skin and joints but can damage your internal organs.
If you suspect you have lupus, look for the following symptoms:
Multiple sclerosis is a type of autoimmune disease that impacts your brain and nervous system. Sufferers may experience vision loss and often have pain with eye movement. You could also have problems with your bladder and balance. You could develop dizziness and fatigue, and you might slur your speech even though you are sober.
Many people with this type of autoimmune disorder or others suffer flares where their symptoms increase and subside. This relapsing-remitting disease course can cause considerable emotional and financial stress.
At times, you may feel fine. During a flare, however, you might not be able to leave your bed. Friends and family often can’t understand why you appear “normal” one day but disabled the next. Your employers rarely comprehend your symptom severity, and if you take too many sick days, you could face repeated job loss and economic strain.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes similar symptoms as the osteo variety, but it can strike people of any age. Those under the age of 16 might receive a diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It causes severe pain and swelling in your joints, and can result in pain and stiffness with movement.
Crohn’s disease occurs when your body attacks your digestive system. Unlike ulcerative colitis, which only impacts your intestines, Crohn’s can strike anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can prove debilitating. You can suffer frequent bouts of diarrhea and feel an urgent need to move your bowels, causing you significant distress if you can’t find a bathroom. You may become reclusive, and children with the condition might fear attending school. Alternatively, you could grow constipated and pass blood in your movements.
Like rheumatoid arthritis, the psoriatic version attacks your joints. However, this disorder also impacts your skin, and results in red, raised, itchy patches called plaques. These blemishes can prove embarrassing and cause you to avoid wearing short sleeves or shorts, even on the warmest days. Skin deformities can also strike your face and scalp, making you intimidated to go out in public.
Two types of diabetes exist — Type 1 and Type 2. In Type 1 diabetes, your body attacks the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. People with this disorder are more likely to have other types of autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis or lupus.
If you have Type 1 diabetes, you will need to take supplemental insulin. This condition can prove fatal without it, as many people in the United States who lack health coverage understand. Tragically, several individuals have lost their lives from rationing their dosage due to high costs.
Fibromyalgia suffers hoe a rocky row. They often have to convince friends and family that their condition is real and not in their heads, and sometimes, they must persuade their doctors. In one 2007 survey of 2,000 patients, a quarter of respondents said their physicians didn’t take them seriously.
This disorder causes widespread pain, which is often worse along trigger points, such as the mid-back. Like many autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia frequently strikes women, which some critics identify as a possible reason why the medical field fails to take the condition seriously.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease of the intestines, but unlike ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, the ingestion of gluten causes an exaggerated response. Many patients don’t know they have the disorder, but it can cause severe long-term health issues. While treatment sounds simple — don’t eat wheat — gluten hides in many of America’s processed foods.
If you suspect you have one of these types of autoimmune disease, you should consult with your physician. Now that you have a better understanding, you can exercise more empathy toward those who live with these disorders.