• Fri. Oct 30th, 2020

When the body attacks itself

ByMuthoni Githire

Aug 29, 2020

The human immune system is such that the defense cells are designed to fight foreign bodies that find their way into the body. These foreign bodies include viruses and bacteria. However, there are situations where the body is not able to differentiate the foreign cells from the cells of the body. This means that the white blood cells mistakenly attack functional body cells. These conditions are known as autoimmune diseases. The cause of autoimmune disease is generally unknown, but some of them can be triggered by infections, harmful habits such as cigarette smoking and some environmental factors. Some of them, for instance, lupus, run in families.

There are at least 80 types of autoimmune diseases, and they can affect any part of the body. They include diabetes mellitus type 1, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Common symptoms of an autoimmune condition are low-grade fever, joint pains, skin problems and fatigue, but other symptoms may come and go.

Autoimmune skin rash

Diagnosis of autoimmune diseases based on the symptoms is the antinuclear antibody test (ANA), which confirms whether or not one has an autoimmune disease. However, several follow up confirmatory tests are carried out to confirm the type of autoimmune infection.

Hands deformed by rheumatoid arthritis

Treatment of autoimmune diseases depend on type and severity of the condition. Drugs such as Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) and immunosuppressant drugs may be used. Prognosis (the likely outcome after treatment of a disease) of autoimmune diseases varies substantially among the affected individuals. Treatment for autoimmune diseases generally focuses on reducing immune system activity.

Cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant

Newer treatments for autoimmune disease are showing some promise, including peptide analogs that block autoantigen binding and inhibit soluble cytokines (any of a number of substances, which are secreted by certain cells of the immune system and have an effect on other cells). With success of these and other technologies, there is hope for patients with autoimmune diseases.

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