General Practice 2022

9 autoimmune diseases: main symptoms and treatment

9 autoimmune diseases: main symptoms and treatment
9 autoimmune diseases: main symptoms and treatment

Autoimmune diseases are those characterized by the immune system's response against the body itself, in which there is destruction of he althy cells by the immune system, which can result in some diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, hemolytic anemia and Crohn's disease, for example, which should be identified and treated according to the doctor's advice.

The diagnosis of autoimmune diseases is usually made by observing the signs and symptoms presented by the person, which varies according to the disease, and by means of immunological, molecular and imaging tests.

The main autoimmune diseases are:

1. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus, also known as SLE, is an autoimmune disease in which the body's defense cells attack he althy cells in the body, resulting in inflammation in the joints, eyes, kidneys and skin, for example. This disease occurs due to genetic mutations that arise during fetal development and, therefore, it is normal for signs and symptoms of SLE to appear in young patients.

Main symptoms: Lupus symptoms appear in outbreaks, that is, the person has periods without symptoms and others with symptoms, and this period is usually triggered by factors that interfere with the functioning of the immune system or that favor the appearance of clinical manifestations, such as the use of some medications or prolonged exposure to the sun.

The main symptom of SLE is the appearance of a red spot on the face in the shape of a butterfly, in addition to joint pain, excessive tiredness and the appearance of sores in the mouth and nose.In the presence of these symptoms, the general practitioner or rheumatologist recommends performing urine and blood tests that help to conclude the diagnosis.

How is the treatment: The treatment for SLE should be done according to the rheumatologist's or general practitioner's recommendation and aims to relieve symptoms and prevent them from appearing frequently and extensively, as this disease has no cure. Thus, the doctor may recommend the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids and immunosuppressants.

Understand how the diagnosis and treatment of systemic lupus erythematosus is made.

2. Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by inflammation and swelling of the joints due to the action of the immune system against the body itself. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is still not very well understood, but it is believed that some factors may favor the development of this disease, such as infection by viruses or bacteria, for example.

Main symptoms: The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, as with lupus, can appear and disappear without any explanation, the main ones being redness, swelling and pain in the articulation. In addition, stiffness and difficulty moving the joint, fever, tiredness and malaise may be observed. Know how to recognize the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

How is the treatment: Treatment should be recommended by a rheumatologist or general practitioner, and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs is usually indicated to reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms. In addition, it is important that physiotherapy is performed to avoid limiting the range of motion of the joint.

3. Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is characterized by the destruction of the myelin sheath, which is the structure that covers neurons and allows the transmission of nerve impulses by the cells of the immune system, resulting in impairment of the nervous system.

Main symptoms: Multiple sclerosis symptoms are progressive, that is, they worsen as the nervous system is compromised, resulting in muscle weakness, excessive tiredness, tingling in the arms or legs, difficulty walking, fecal or urinary incontinence, visual changes and memory loss, for example. Thus, as the disease progresses, the person becomes increasingly dependent, which directly interferes with their quality of life.

How it is treated: Treatment for multiple sclerosis typically involves the use of medications to prevent the disease from progressing and to promote symptom relief, such as anti-inflammatories, immunoglobulins and corticosteroids. In addition, it is important that the person undergoes physiotherapy sessions regularly so that the muscles are constantly activated and thus complete atrophy can be avoided. Check out in the video below what the physical therapy treatment of multiple sclerosis should be like:

4. Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is characterized by inflammation of the thyroid due to the immune system attacking the thyroid cells, resulting in an increased or normal thyroid activity, which is soon followed by a low activity, developing hypothyroidism.

Main symptoms: Symptoms related to Hashimoto's thyroiditis are similar to those of hypothyroidism, with excessive tiredness, hair loss, cold and pale skin, low intolerance to cold, easy weight gain and muscle or joint pain.

As the symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis are the same as those of hypothyroidism, the endocrinologist needs the person to perform some tests that evaluate the functioning of the thyroid so that the autoimmune disease is confirmed and, thus, the most appropriate treatment. Thus, the measurement of T3, T4 and TSH may be recommended, in addition to the measurement of antithyroid peroxidase, also called anti-TPO, which is an antibody produced by the immune system that is increased in Hashimoto's thyroiditis.Learn more about anti-TPO and what it means when it's high.

How is the treatment: Treatment for Hashimoto's thyroiditis is only indicated by the endocrinologist when the person has symptoms, and in these cases hormone replacement with Levothyroxine is recommended for a period of 6 months. It is also important to pay attention to food, eating foods rich in iodine, zinc and selenium, for example, which are nutrients that favor the proper functioning of the thyroid.

5. Hemolytic anemia

Hemolytic anemia occurs when the immune system starts to produce antibodies that act by destroying red blood cells, causing anemia. This type of anemia is more common in young adults and it is not yet known exactly why there is production of antibodies against red blood cells, however it is believed that dysregulation of the immune system due to an infection, the use of some drugs or the presence of autoimmune disease may favor the occurrence of hemolytic anemia.

Main symptoms: The symptoms of hemolytic anemia are related to a decrease in the amount of red blood cells, hemoglobin and, consequently, of oxygen circulating in the blood, with weakness, pallor, loss of of appetite, headache, weak nails, memory failure, dry skin and malaise.

Although it is often not possible to identify the cause of autoimmune hemolytic anemia, it is important that diagnostic tests are carried out to check for diseases or triggering factors, such as blood count, reticulocyte count, bilirubin dosage and tests immunological, such as the direct coombs test.

How is the treatment: The treatment indicated by the doctor usually involves the use of drugs to regulate the activity of the immune system, such as corticosteroids and immunosuppressants. In addition, in some cases the doctor may indicate the removal of the spleen, called a splenectomy, since it is in this organ that the red blood cells are destroyed.Understand how hemolytic anemia is treated.

6. Vitiligo

vitiligo patches

Spots of vitiligo

Vitiligo is a disease characterized by the destruction of melanocytes, which are the cells responsible for producing melanin, the substance responsible for skin color. The cause of vitiligo is still not well understood, however it is often associated with dysregulation of the immune system, leading to the destruction of melanocytes by the immune system's own cells.

Main symptoms: Due to the destruction of melanin-producing cells, several white spots appear on the skin, which is characteristic of vitiligo. These spots appear more frequently in places that are more exposed to the sun, such as hands, arms, face and lips.

How is the treatment: The treatment of vitiligo must be guided by the dermatologist, because the person needs to have several skin care, since it becomes more sensitive, in addition to being necessary to apply creams and ointments with corticosteroids or immunosuppressants, and there may be a need for phototherapy.

7. Sjögren's Syndrome

This syndrome is characterized by the production of autoantibodies responsible for the chronic and progressive inflammation of the body's glands, such as salivary and lacrimal glands, resulting in the dryness of the mucous membranes.

Main symptoms: As there is involvement of glands responsible for hydration of the eyes and mouth, for example, the main symptoms observed are dry eyes and mouth, difficulty swallowing, difficulty to speak for a long time, greater sensitivity to light, a feeling of redness in the eyes and an increased risk of infections.

This disease can happen only due to changes in immunity or associated with other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and scleroderma. Therefore, it is important for the physician to request an autoantibody test to check for another associated disease and, thus, indicate the best treatment.

How is the treatment: The treatment indicated by the doctor aims to relieve the symptoms presented, and the use of artificial saliva and lubricating eye drops, in addition to anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressants.See other treatment options for Sjogren's syndrome.

8. Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is also an autoimmune disease, because it happens due to the attack of immune cells to the pancreatic cells responsible for insulin production, with no recognition of the amount of circulating glucose, which makes each time more glucose accumulates in the blood. It is more common in children and adolescents, but can also occur in young adults.

Main symptoms: The main symptoms related to type 1 diabetes are frequent urge to urinate, extreme thirst, excessive hunger and weight loss for no apparent reason.

It is important that the doctor perform tests other than fasting glucose and glycated hemoglobin to diagnose type 1 diabetes, as the symptoms are similar to those of type 2 diabetes. Know the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2.

How is the treatment: For this type of diabetes, the endocrinologist must indicate the use of insulin in several doses during the day or in the form of a pump, because the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. In this way, it is possible to keep the levels of circulating glucose in the blood regulated.

9. Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease characterized by intolerance to gluten present in food, since the body does not produce sufficient amounts of enzymes to degrade this protein, resulting in an exacerbated immune system response, which leads to inflammation and appearance of lesions in the intestine.

Main symptoms: The symptoms of celiac disease are identified after the consumption of foods that have gluten in their composition, and their intensity may vary from person to person according to the degree of intolerance. The main symptoms indicative of celiac disease are vomiting, weight loss, frequent diarrhea, swollen belly, very bulky, pale and foul-smelling stools.Know how to recognize the symptoms of celiac disease.

How is the treatment: The treatment for celiac disease consists of controlling the symptoms, being recommended to avoid the consumption of foods that have gluten or traces of gluten, as well as the use of food supplements may be recommended by the doctor or nutritionist to avoid complications, since inflammation and lesions of the intestine can interfere with the absorption of nutrients.

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