The diagnosis is made with the aid, mainly, of blood tests in combination with the clinical analysis of the symptoms. So, when there is no symptomatic manifestation, the person will hardly know that he suffers from an autoimmune condition.
In general, these diseases have no cure, although some may be inactive for some periods of time (long or not). So, they are characterized as chronic problems, which makes patients need care for life.
It is important to note that these conditions will not necessarily affect daily life and prevent a normal life. In most cases, it is only necessary to change specific habits and care in order to avoid further complications as a result of the disease.
Which organs can autoimmune diseases affect?
Autoimmune diseases can affect tissues in the entire body (such as blood vessels, skin, cartilage) and different organs – including even the heart and brain, for example.
It is worth noting that some conditions are much rarer than others and, in addition, different types of autoimmune disease can affect the same organ. Check out which are some of them and in which bodies they manifest:
The best-known autoimmune conditions that can affect the kidney are:
Berger’s disease , Goodpasture’s syndrome and Lupus . Only the first exclusively affects the kidney.
In this sense, Berger’s disease is a disease that can lead to end-stage renal failure, and its cause is linked to
immunoglobulin A (IgA) – an antibody whose function is to defend the mucous membranes of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract against infectious agents.
Then, due to the malfunctioning of the immune system, these antibodies become lodged in the kidneys and cause injury. Therefore, they do not correspond to a defense cell produced specifically against the kidney, but they are antibodies that for some reason (not yet known) reach this organ.
Goodpasture Syndrome (or
lung-kidney syndrome ) is considered an uncommon autoimmune disease. It causes pulmonary hemorrhage and progressively leads to impaired renal function.
The most common symptoms involve difficulty breathing and blood sputum. As with other autoimmune conditions, this syndrome usually manifests itself in genetically susceptible people.
Lupus is one of the most well-known conditions, although its real cause is not yet known. But it is already known that the manifestation can occur from genetic, environmental, hormonal, infectious factors, exposure to radiation and the use of some medications.
This pathology does not exclusively affect the kidneys, where it can affect the urine volume or cause complications such as blood in the urine. But it also affects the skin and joints.
autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is a condition that does not cause established, but some studies indicate that experts and it can occur from the interaction of genetic predisposition and external agents (infectives, drugs or toxins).
This pathology triggers an immunological reaction of the organism itself against liver cells, especially hepatocytes. With this, a chronic inflammation develops that progressively destroys this organ.
But, in addition to this, two other conditions can compromise the liver:
Primary Biliary Cholangitis (CBP) and Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (CEP).
Both affect the bile ducts, a kind of duct that has the function of transporting bile to the gallbladder. CBP gradually destroys these channels, while CEP causes chronic inflammation in the ducts (inside and outside the liver), destroying them.
All 3 conditions can trigger or be associated with other diseases, such as Crohn’s disease,
cirrhosis , fibrosis, liver failure.
There are four most common autoimmune diseases that affect the skin. Understand better about:
Vitiligo – is characterized by the loss of skin color in one or more areas of the body, causing white spots (hypopigmentation). This occurs due to the decrease or absence of melanocytes, cells responsible for the formation of melanin, which gives color to the skin, hair and hair;
Psoriasis – a cyclic autoimmune condition (symptoms may appear and disappear) that generates scales and spots on the skin, due to the increase in neutrophils (defense cells). It is triggered, especially, by genetic factors and can worsen due to smoking, low temperatures and obesity;
Lupus – it is an autoimmune disease that compromises joints, kidneys and skin. Since, in the dermis, it causes photosensitivity (sensitivity to sunlight) and irritations when there is no protection against this external factor. Its cause is linked to radiation, genetic and hormonal factors, environmental issues and infectious agents;
Atopic dermatitis – is a condition commonly characterized by symptoms such as continuous and intense itching, which occurs due to the red spots, scales and eczemas (lesions) that appear on the skin. The problem occurs as an autoimmune reaction of the organism triggered by factors such as emotional stress, allergies, climate changes, etc.
As with other autoimmune diseases, these are pathologies that cannot be cured, but their complications can be mitigated based on the ideal diagnosis and treatment. However, it is necessary to explain that care is continuous and lasts for a lifetime.
The endometrium is the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. Its thickness can vary according to the hormonal concentrations in the bloodstream and, especially, during the menstrual cycle.
When fertilization occurs, it is this structure that makes it possible to embrace the embryo in the wall of the uterus, in addition to being indispensable for the formation of the placenta – a structure that has the function of guaranteeing the fetus the necessary nutrients and oxygenation.
An autoimmune condition that can affect this region is
. There are still some disagreements regarding this classification, but there are already studies and professionals who recognize this disorder as being of immunological cause. Endometriosis
Basically, endometriosis is an inflammation that causes the tissue of the endometrium to grow outside the uterus, which can lead to occasional (such as increased pain during menstruation) and permanent (such as infertility) complications.
It is due to the inflammatory character that the disease can be considered autoimmune, since it is an inflammation triggered by the organism and causing harm to itself.
In general, treatment consists of surgery and hormonal therapies with contraceptives.
The thyroid is a gland located in the anterior part of the neck, it is responsible for the production of the hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). Thus, its action contributes to the full functioning of organs such as the heart, brain, liver and kidneys.
There are two main dysfunctions that affect this gland:
hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism , respectively, cause a decrease or increase in thyroid function.
But in addition, there is also an autoimmune condition that can affect this region. This is
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis , which is triggered by genetic predisposition and / or external factors (such as exacerbated iodine consumption, for example).
In this case, what happens is the attack on healthy thyroid cells, in which the antibodies cause the gradual destruction of the gland or the reduction of its activity. Thus, causing hypothyroidism – when there is insufficiency of hormones T3 and T4.
There are two autoimmune conditions that commonly affect the intestinal tract:
Crohn’s disease – disease that causes inflammation in the intestine, especially in the terminal ileum (end of the small intestine and beginning of the large intestine). It causes symptoms such as severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting and nausea;
Ulcerative Colitis – is characterized by an inflammation in the mucosa that lines the large intestine, causing lesions in the region. Its symptoms also include diarrhea and pain in the abdomen.
Both pathologies can also trigger joint complications (such as
arthritis ) and even ocular changes. It is not uncommon for people to sometimes confuse these two conditions, considering the similarity in the manifestation.
Treatment can be done through immunosuppressants, drugs that control the action of the body’s defense system and, above all, dietary changes. But there are still surgical options and other medications.
Autoimmune disease and immunosuppressants: what is the relationship?
Autoimmune diseases are triggered by a “defect” in the immune system, so that, instead of defending the organism from external agents and foreign bodies, it starts to attack the tissue structures and organs themselves.
In this sense, since there is no cure for this deficiency in the defense system, medications that act to minimize such action may be necessary. What is done in order to inhibit the manifestation of the symptoms and complications of the disease in question.
This is where the drugs classified as
immunosuppressants fall . The function of these medications is to reduce immunological activity, in this case, with the aim of stopping the body’s attacks on the structures themselves.
However, these drugs can also be used in other circumstances. As, for example, to avoid the rejection of transplanted organs – since the new organ can be understood by the body as something strange.
It should be noted that not all people with an autoimmune condition need to administer immunosuppressants. Since, in some cases, just a few changes in habit or use of other medications may be sufficient.
Who has autoimmune disease has low immunity?
Autoimmune diseases have as a main characteristic the impaired function of the body’s defense system, since it starts to attack the body itself and not only infectious or unidentified agents (foreign bodies).
When a person with these conditions has the disease under control, carrying out the correct treatment, he does not usually suffer from low immunity.
However, just like anyone else, those who have these diseases can strengthen their immune system and body health from some habits. Such as, for example, adequate intake of
vitamins , minerals and nutrients essential to the body.
So that a balanced diet, along with the practice of physical activities, can be an ally to prevent other complications resulting from immunological factors.
What are autoimmune diseases?
In a previous topic, we saw some organs that autoimmune diseases can affect. However, there are many conditions caused by inadequate reactions of the human body’s defense system. Among these, the most well-known and studied by medicine can be highlighted:
Lupus – affects tissues and organs (especially the skin, kidneys and joints);
Multiple sclerosis – causes nerve damage, which affects the communication between the brain’s commands and the body’s response;
Type 1 diabetes – antibodies attack the pancreas, responsible for the production of insulin, so that it starts to produce little or no insulin. As a result, the blood is left with excess glucose (sugar) and health complications are triggered;
Sjögren’s syndrome – the main characteristics are extremely dry eyes and mouths, which generates (among other complications) the inability to cry;
Vitiligo – inappropriate antibodies and T lymphocytes (type of defense cells) are produced, which attack the structures responsible for melanin (pigment, hair, skin, etc.). Thus, causing hypopigmentation (whitish spots) on the skin;
Crohn’s disease – inflammation in the intestine, mainly affects the terminal ileum, part that corresponds to the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine;
Rheumatoid arthritis – can affect the joints of the whole body (hands, feet, etc.);
Psoriasis – there is an accumulation of skin cells, causing the formation of scales and lesions in the dermis, which causes itching and tenderness in the affected places;
Celiac disease – reaction that causes intolerance to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat flour, oats, rye, barley and malt;
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – the antibodies cause a gradual destruction of the thyroid gland or a reduction in its activity, usually causing hypothyroidism (deficiency of hormones T3 and T4);
Vasculitis – inflammation of the blood vessel wall (veins or arteries).
In addition to these, there are other pathologies related to autoimmune problems, but with less incidence and / or still without sufficiently satisfactory studies in this regard. This can even impair the diagnosis of the condition due to the lack of information.
What are the causes?
is still no concrete explanation as to what causes autoimmune diseases and causes the body to attack itself. However, studies indicate that they are multifactorial, including genetic, environmental, hormonal and behavioral aspects.
In this sense, in addition to having a genetic predisposition, some other factors may be related, according to each disease:
Use of medications;
However, it is necessary to highlight that not necessarily those who are predisposed to a disease (immunological or not), will actually suffer from this condition. There are cases in which the gene remains inactive and does not cause any change in the functioning of the organism.
How to diagnose an autoimmune disease?
The diagnosis of an autoimmune disease should always be made by a doctor, preferably a specialist in the area affected by the problem. In general, this process always includes in-office
clinical analysis and clinical examinations .
It is from them that it will be possible to detect some inflammation in the body and the presence of foreign antibodies. Considering that several laboratory tests, especially the search for autoantibodies (AA), favor the diagnostic process together with a thorough clinical analysis.
In addition, based on blood tests, the function of blood cells (red and white blood cells) is analyzed, which can also indicate inflammatory processes.
In general, considering that the results of the exams alone are not enough to prove the existence of autoimmune disease, a combination of factors occurs.
That is, the doctor combines the results with the symptoms presented by the patient, in order to reach a solid conclusion regarding the diagnosis. In some cases, you can also request additional tests to rule out other suspicions.
Do they have a cure?
autoimmune diseases have no cure . What happens, in some cases, is the possibility of making the condition inactive for a period – in this sense, an example is endometriosis, which after a surgical process may never manifest again.
Although there are cases of this type, it should be noted that these pathologies are chronic and tend to cause more complications over time, if they are not properly controlled.
Therefore, medical treatment and follow-up is essential in order to prevent serious complications due to the autoimmune condition. With this, also preserving the integrity of the patient and ensuring a longer healthy life expectancy.
How to treat autoimmune diseases?
Treatment will vary depending on the disease, since the autoimmune conditions are different and need specific and targeted care according to the case.
It is common to use medications to relieve symptoms and complications, such as
anti-inflammatory drugs (for cases such as endometriosis, which usually causes pain) and topical options (to treat dermatitis , psoriasis, etc.).
hormonal replacement can occur – as in cases of thyroid problems.
These (and others) are cares that aim to minimize the reactions that the autoimmune disease triggers and to prevent other compromises of the organism’s health. However, they do not aim to fight the disease itself.
The use of
immunosuppressive medications may also be prescribed by the physician , whose function is to inhibit or soften the action of the immune system. Controlling the body’s reaction to attack itself and, consequently, decreasing symptoms.
It should be noted that any medication can cause side effects, especially if the use is continuous and prolonged, which may make it necessary to change or interrupt the treatment cycles – which will be determined by the medical team.
Thus, each disease is treated in a unique way, according to its manifestations and specificities. For example, sometimes it may be necessary to continually use medicines, while other cases require comprehensive treatment (diet, medicine, change of habits).
Diet for autoimmune disease: what to eat?
Some dietary precautions may be recommended or strictly necessary for those who suffer from an autoimmune disease.
First of all, this is important for taking care of your health as a whole. However, it is even more fundamental to avoid other complications arising from the diet. Therefore, there are some very recommended items, which can be beneficial, and others to be avoided as much as possible.
In this sense, some foods that contribute positively are:
Probiotics (such as kefir);
Green leafy vegetables (lettuce, cabbage, arugula, watercress);
Vegetables rich in sulfur (onion, broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage);
Gluten-free carbohydrates (potatoes, manioc, sweet potatoes, tapioca);
Options rich in healthy fats (avocado, fish, seeds).
These are indicated because they contribute to the functioning of the digestive system, are rich in nutrients, provide energy to the body and provide the absorption of compounds such as omega 3 and 6 (potent anti-inflammatory action).
But, on the other hand, there are some items that should be avoided and even totally dispensed with:
Dairy products (milk and milk products);
Products with added sugar;
Oilseeds (chestnuts, almonds, macadamia, peanuts);
Spices (pepper, nutmeg, paprika);
The recommendation to avoid such foods is due to the fact that they
are potential inflammatory agents . So, it is common for them to cause irritation or discomfort, negatively impacting the functioning and health of the body, especially in those who suffer from diseases that affect the intestine.
Finally, it should be noted that some autoimmune conditions alone already impose some restrictions and care with food. This is the case, for example, with celiac disease (the person has
gluten intolerance ) and diabetes (it is necessary to control sugar).
However, any dietary restrictions must be guided by the medical team. That is, there are diseases that are not so closely related to the diet, and there are not necessarily benefits for the treatment to modify the diet.
Autoimmune diseases do not always manifest early in life. In fact, some commonly appear in adulthood, which reinforces the need for routine medical monitoring and not ignoring the appearance of any symptoms.
Seeking information is important to be aware of danger signs. To do this, keep following the Healthy Minute and get access to more informative content like this!