Our autoimmune system is what keeps us safe from all diseases. Its function is absolutely crucial to our wellbeing. We wouldn’t be able to fight off simple ailments like common colds, infections from a paper cut, or more serious ailments like the flu without it. Recovery and fighting off germs and viruses would be very tricky if not impossible.
An autoimmune disease occurs when our immune system gets turned against us. Diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), psoriasis, asthma, lupus, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, autoimmune hepatitis, and many more. Autoimmune diseases are a bit different than autoimmune responses like allergies, although studies have shown that an autoimmune response may in fact trigger an autoimmune disease.
Our immune system is a sometimes oversensitive unit of soldiers defending our bodies at all costs. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system begins to produce antibodies and T cells that are incorrectly directed against its own tissues and cells in the body. This can produce many symptoms that are widespread – it often takes a stroke of luck to diagnose properly.
In an interview with CBS News, Dr. Katinka of the Spero Clinic described the autoimmune Fibromyalgia symptoms as “pain, depression, anxiety, bladder problems, knee problems” – it’s a long laundry list of symptoms and “life-robbing” pain.
The handling of autoimmune diseases is difficult, primarily due to the unknown origins of autoimmune disease. They are very hard to diagnose, and it often takes a long time to get the right kind of treatment. Most clinics that specialize in these types of diseases deal with breakthrough autoimmune treatments and they usually aren’t covered by insurers.
Unfortunately, the course of these diseases can be bothersome and can lead to impairment of simple daily activities. In this article, we are going to introduce you to the ongoing discussion on the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
When the response of our immune system is justified
The alertness of the defense system wakes up when tissue is damaged, or when tissue changes its characteristics. This is why some autoimmune diseases occur as we get older – the process may start, e.g., as a result of the aging process. Our immune system immediately sees danger and starts working by launching complex repair mechanisms.
The response causes low inflammation and produces antibodies directed against changed tissues. It is not unusual. In the blood of every healthy person, there are autoantibodies, but they are tolerant to a specific antigen. It is called immune tolerance.
An example of immune tolerance is self-tolerance (natural tolerance), in which the immune system of a given organism does not respond to its own proteins (more broadly: autoantigens). If the mechanisms of self-tolerance fail, there is an autoimmune disease occurring.
Drugs used in the treatment
Unfortunately, when we talk about a cure for autoimmune diseases, we often get stuck with just the “treatment” – not an actual cure. Most autoimmune diseases cannot be cured – but they can be treated to help reduce symptoms and bring down the pain and inflammation-causing responses.
Because the problem in these diseases is the immune system itself, bringing down immune responses is the best option for controlling the symptoms. Unfortunately, bringing down the immune system too much can result in our bodies being left open for unwelcome outside diseases.
Autoimmune disease treatment is a delicate dance. Some of the medication used to fight this fight is:
Anti-Inflammatories – these drugs have a long history going back hundreds of centuries. A long time ago, plants like myrtle, or willow and poplar bark were used to treat inflammation. Today, there are many different non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that include many over-the-counter brands like Motrin, ibuprofen or Advil.
Immunosuppressives – These drugs act directly with the immune system, causing it to lower its response. People with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus are usually treated immunosuppressives. Patients who take this medication will become immunocompromised and have to take special care to avoid situations where they might catch a cold or a virus.
Steroids – Steroids are often administered for a limited amount of time, and are used to reduce inflammation and reduce the activity of the immune system. They come in many forms – tablets, syrups, inhalers (to treat asthma) creams, and lotions (like hydrocortisone) for autoimmune skin responses.
Diet – A lot of people take a holistic approach to autoimmune treatment and consider diet an important part of it. There are foods that cause inflammation in the body, and there are foods proven to keep it down.
Holistic approach and symptomatic treatment
Unfortunately, not fully understanding the mechanisms of the emergence of autoimmune diseases, we must limit ourselves to symptomatic treatment and comprehensive support for the patient and his family. Treatment is carried out very individually with monitoring of periods of remission and relapses, as well as side effects of the drugs used. The most common goal of therapy is to obtain the longest possible disease remission period using minimal, effective doses of medications.
The patient knows how challenging it is to cure autoimmune diseases, and that sometimes it is incurable. That is why depressive states may occur. Therefore, it is crucial to take a holistic approach to such a person and provide them not only with drugs that act on the basic symptoms of the disease but also an attempt to ensure their mental well-being. In such treatment, not only the doctor but the whole family should be involved.
Prevention of autoimmune diseases
It is essential to remember about disease prevention in addition to treatment. Improper diet, alcohol abuse, and smoking significantly weaken the functioning of the immune system. Nicotine toxins are particularly dangerous. They can confuse the immune system so effectively that it will begin to destroy its cells. Similar reactions can occur with a significant deficiency of vitamins, especially A, C, and E, as well as minerals. It is also worth remembering that when the body is rested and well-nourished, it is easier to cope with any infection and self-aggression. Stressful situations also weaken stress resistance. The defense system is closely related to the nervous system. Nervousness disturbs their cooperation. To prevent this from happening, you need to spend some time each day to relax. And it would be best if you took care of healthy sleep: you need to sleep in a well ventilated and dark room for about 8 hours a day.
The first step in treating autoimmune diseases should lead you to your general practitioner. After the interview, the doctor will order the appropriate tests. When diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, each patient must be under the constant care of their attending physician. The patient must strictly follow the recommendations, thanks to which there is a chance that the disease will be in remission for a more extended period, and its exacerbations will occur less often. It is worth remembering that there is always hope for effective treatment, and seeking solutions can bring satisfactory results.