When people hear the term “autoimmune disorder,” the first thing that typically comes to mind is AIDS. Autoimmune disorders are often seen as these rare, life-ending illnesses that those diagnosed must suffer through for the rest of their lives. While left untreated, autoimmune disorders can cause serious harm; they are far more common than you think. Here are some examples of autoimmune disorders and how they affect the body:

What is an Autoimmune Disorder?

Before getting into the conditions listed, let’s first go over what exactly an autoimmune disorder is. There are many autoimmune disorders, and they may all seem quite different at first. There is only one factor determining whether an illness is considered an autoimmune disorder: how it affects the body. All autoimmune disorders involve the body’s immune system attacking other parts of the body itself. This could be muscles, blood cells, or even hormone production centers like the pineal gland or the pancreas.

HIV and AIDS

The most recognized autoimmune disorder on this list is HIV. Because of all the media coverage this condition received in the 1980s, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus has become a familiar name among health classes. HIV can be hereditary or contracted as a bloodborne illness or sexually transmitted illness. HIV affects the immune system as a whole by making it attack itself. When left untreated, this condition can escalate into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, also known as AIDS.

 

While HIV and AIDS are severe conditions, many treatments have been developed since their discovery. These treatments, when used regularly, can keep the condition from worsening. With the invention of the mRNA vaccine, solutions to curing the illness are becoming a possibility.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a form of diabetes that people are typically born with, but it can develop over time. Like other forms of diabetes, this condition affects insulin production, which the body needs to process and store glucose for energy. With type 1 specifically, the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This, in turn, leaves the body with no way to regulate blood sugar.

 

Type 1 diabetes is manageable through close blood sugar monitoring and external sources of insulin. In addition, scientists are working to find more potent prevention methods and less expensive ways to produce insulin.

Systemic Lupus

Unlike the other autoimmune disorders on this list, systemic lupus doesn’t target a specific area of the body. Instead, the immune system attacks various parts of the body, including the joints, skin, lungs, brain, kidneys, and blood vessels. Damage to these organs can cause tissue inflation and thus severe pain in the affected area. Since this form of lupus is the most common, many specialists treat systemic lupus specifically.

 

When diagnosed early on and immediately treated, symptoms of systemic lupus may be far less severe than if they had been diagnosed later on. Common treatments for systemic lupus include immunosuppressant drugs, physical therapy, and chemotherapy.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is considered both an autoimmune disorder and an inflammatory bowel disease and is thus handled similarly to other members of the IBD family. With Crohn’s, the immune system attacks the gastrointestinal lining in the body’s digestive system; this can include the esophagus, stomach lining, small intestine, or large intestine. Symptoms of Crohn’s include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as intense stomach pain.

 

Doctors treat Crohn’s with a combination of diet changes, immunosuppressants, and anti-inflammatory medications. While the condition itself has no cure, regular treatment and following provided dietary guidelines can keep people with Crohn’s relatively pain-free.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arguably one of the most common autoimmune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis tends to develop over time. Affecting joints in the hands, feet, knees, or ankles, RA causes joint deterioration by signaling the immune system to attack joint tissue. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause joint pain and stiffness, but it can affect more than just the joints. In some cases, RA can affect the eyes, heart, and circulatory system. Common symptoms include swelling, redness, and dryness in the affected areas and potentially low red blood cell counts.

 

Doctors can treat RA in many different ways, and these methods vary from patient to patient. Common treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, painkillers, and physical therapy. Alternative forms of pain management,  like orthopedic braces, TENS therapy, and paraffin wax therapy, may also be effective.

 

If you or a loved one suffers from an autoimmune disorder, contact your primary care physician for more information. To browse pain management options and orthopedic equipment, visit Medical Supply Depot.

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