May 20th is autoimmune day, a day to raise awareness about the causes and effects of autoimmune diseases. The word “autoimmune” is often mistaken for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), but these are two completely different medical conditions. If you have an autoimmune disease, here are some things you should know.
What is an Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease is a disease in which the immune system attacks the body, instead of protecting it like it normally does. Because the immune system cannot tell the difference between a foreign cell or virus from a healthy cell, it winds up attacking the joints, skin, or muscles in an attempt to fight off invading cells. There is no one cause for an autoimmune disease, and it affects people from all different backgrounds.
What Diseases are Considered Autoimmune Diseases?
There are more than 100 diseases that are categorized as autoimmune diseases. The following list includes some of the more common and known diseases:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Type I diabetes
- Multiple sclerosis
- Celiac diseases
- Graves diseases
- Crohn’s disease
How Do I Know if I Have an Autoimmune Disease?
People usually are unaware that they have an autoimmune disease until they have been dealing with chronic pain, swelling, fatigue, and other symptoms, and other options have been ruled out. Doctors use blood tests to determine whether or not an autoimmune disease is the issue. Once an autoimmune disease is diagnosed, doctors will work with you to determine a course of action.
Is There a Cure for Autoimmune Diseases?
Unfortunately, there is not a cure for autoimmune diseases. However, most can be managed with the right combination of medications, eating habits, and different therapies. Scientists and doctors continue to research ways to reduce the impact on quality of life for those with autoimmune diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), autoimmune diseases are more likely to affect women than men, but the reason is unknown at this time. Genetics and environmental factors play a role in some autoimmune diseases. Nonetheless, having a healthy immune system is very important. Eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, exercising, and getting enough sunlight are all important in maintaining a healthy immune system.