HealthUnderstanding Autoimmune Diseases - A Comprehensive Guide to Common...

Understanding Autoimmune Diseases – A Comprehensive Guide to Common Conditions


Your immune system fights off germs and unhealthy cells that could damage your body. But it can also mistake your healthy cells for a threat and attack them, causing autoimmune diseases.

Scientists aren’t sure what causes most autoimmune disorders, but they think genes and environment play a role. You’re more likely to get one if your family members have them, and sex (women are more affected than men) increases your risk, too.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

These illnesses, like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, induce gastrointestinal tract inflammation that lasts for a long time. This inflammation leads to pain, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Although IBD can affect any area of the GI tract, it most frequently affects the portion of the small intestine between the rectum and the large intestine/colon.

A standard immune system makes proteins called antibodies to help protect the body from viruses, bacteria, and germs. But when someone has autoimmune diseases, their immune system makes antibodies against themselves. These are called autoantibodies.

Autoimmune disorders appear to be brought on by several circumstances, but the exact causes are unknown to experts. They may include genetics and environment. People who have a family member with an autoimmune disorder are more likely to develop one themselves. Other risk factors include gender, sex hormones, and age. Girls and women are three times more likely to develop autoimmune diseases than men, and most of these disorders strike during the childbearing years.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

With rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the immune system attacks and damages the body’s tissues, especially the joints. RA can affect any joint lined by a synovial membrane, including the fingers, toes, knees, and elbows. It also can cause extra-articular involvement of the eyes, skin, lungs, heart, and blood vessels.

Symptoms of RA include pain, stiffness, swelling, and fatigue. RA can damage cartilage and bone in the joints and weaken supportive muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Symptoms may come and go and can be worse or better over time.

Your autoimmune specialist Denver can diagnose RA by taking your medical history, checking for symptoms, and performing a physical exam. They will look for swelling, tenderness, and warmth in the joints. They will also order an x-ray, measure the levels of inflammation with the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein, and do other tests to rule out other diseases. RA occurs more often in women than men and can occur at any age.


Autoimmune symptoms frequently lack specificity, making diagnosing difficult for medical professionals. This is why up to 40% of people with autoimmune diseases are misdiagnosed initially.

The immune system protects us from harmful substances, like bacteria, viruses, toxins, and blood and tissue from outside the body. These substances contain antigens, which trigger the immune system to produce antibodies against them. 

Most autoimmune diseases are chronic, so they will likely never go away. But that doesn’t mean that they are not treatable. Most kids with autoimmune diseases will need medication to ease pain and symptoms, physical or occupational therapy to improve mobility, and psychotherapy to help them cope with the emotional challenges of having a chronic illness.


While doctors don’t know what causes autoimmune diseases, they know that certain things can increase your risk. These include sex (women are more likely to get them), certain infections, genetics, and environmental factors like exposure to mercury or chemicals used in industry and farming. Certain medicines can also increase your chances of getting an autoimmune disease. These can be nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that reduce pain, swelling, and stiffness, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, or biologics that suppress the immune system.

Vasculitis refers to a group of conditions that cause inflammation in blood vessels. This can make them weak, stretched, or more significant and even restrict their flow. Some forms of vasculitis affect specific organs, while others can simultaneously affect blood vessels in several organ systems.

Doctors can diagnose vasculitis by examining you and looking at your complete blood count, which includes white blood cells and hematocrit levels. They can also check for low complement levels or a high C-reactive protein level, a marker of inflammation in the body.


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