Dr. Linette Williamson - Autoimmune Diseases in Carlsbad
What Is An Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. The immune system normally guards against germs like bacteria and viruses. When it detects these foreign invaders, it sends an army of fighter cells to attack them.
Usually, the immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own cells. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It discharges proteins called auto-antibodies that attack healthy cells. Some autoimmune diseases target just one organ. Type 1 diabetes harms the pancreas. Other diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), impact the whole body.
There are many kinds of autoimmune diseases. The most common ones include:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
- Celiac disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Type I Diabetes
- Addison's disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)
- Hashimoto's disease
- Grave's disease
- Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)
Why Does the Immune System Attack the Body?
Doctors do not understand exactly what causes the immune-system misfire. Yet some individuals are more likely to get an autoimmune disease than others. According to a 2014 study, females get autoimmune diseases at a rate of about 2 to 1 compared to males-- 6.4 percent of women vs. 2.7 percent of men. Often the disease begins during a woman's childbearing years (ages 15 to 44). Some autoimmune diseases are more prevalent in specific ethnic groups. For instance, lupus affects more African-American and Hispanic individuals than Caucasians. Some autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus, run in families. Not every family member will necessarily have the same disease, but they inherit a susceptibility to an autoimmune disorder.
Since the occurrence of autoimmune diseases is increasing, researchers think environmental factors like infections and exposure to chemicals or solvents may also be involved. A "Western diet" is another suspected risk factor for developing an autoimmune disease. Eating high-fat, high-sugar, and highly processed foods is thought to be connected to inflammation, which could trigger an immune response. However, this hasn't been proven. A 2015 study concentrated on another theory called the hygiene hypothesis. Due to vaccines and antiseptics, children today aren't subjected to as many germs as they were in the past. The lack of exposure could make their immune system prone to overreact to benign substances.
Autoimmune Disease Symptoms
The initial signs of many autoimmune diseases are very similar, such as:
- achy muscles
- swelling and redness
- low-grade fever
- difficulty concentrating
- numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- hair loss
- skin rashes
Specific diseases can also have their own distinct symptoms. For instance, type 1 diabetes triggers excessive thirst, weight loss, and fatigue. IBD causes stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
With autoimmune diseases like psoriasis or RA, symptoms might reoccur. A period of symptoms is called a flare-up. A period when the symptoms go away is called remission.
Tests That Diagnose Autoimmune Diseases
No single test can diagnose most autoimmune diseases. Your doctor will use a combination of tests and an evaluation of your symptoms and physical examination to diagnose you.
The antinuclear antibody test (ANA) is usually among the first tests that doctors use when symptoms suggest an autoimmune disease. A positive test suggests you may have one of these diseases, but it will not confirm exactly which one you have or if you have one for sure.
Other tests look for certain autoantibodies produced in certain autoimmune diseases. Your physician might also do nonspecific tests to check for the inflammation these diseases generate in the body.
How are Autoimmune Diseases Treated?
Treatments can not cure autoimmune diseases, however they can control the overactive immune response and lower inflammation or at the very least minimize pain and inflammation. Medications used to treat these conditions include:
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Naprosyn)
- immune-suppressing drugs
Treatments are also available to ease symptoms like pain, swelling, fatigue, and skin rashes. Consuming a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise may also help you feel better.
Autoimmune Diseases in Carlsbad
More than 80 different autoimmune diseases exist. Often their symptoms overlap, making them hard to diagnose. Autoimmune diseases are more common in women, and they often run in families. Blood tests that look for autoantibodies can help physicians diagnose these conditions. Treatments include medications to calm the overactive immune response and reduce inflammation in the body.
Linette Williamson, MD is an Integrative Medical Doctor, who specializes in helping her patients and Autoimmune Diseases in Carlsbad
Identify lifestyle factors that affect their everyday medical issues. Dr. Williamson uses cutting-edge testing to find imbalances that are related to your health problems. She will spend time with you to find out what specific issues you have and help you develop a specific plan that is unique to you.
Call the clinic and schedule your appointment now. Phone (760) 875-2627