How Doctors Treat Autoimmune Diseases

It's difficult to treat autoimmune diseases since they're complex conditions in which the immune system attacks healthy cells. Learn the most common treatment approaches here.
How Doctors Treat Autoimmune Diseases
Diego Pereira

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Diego Pereira.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 22 December, 2022

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system, which defends the body and all its organs against diseases and infections, attacks the body instead, creating substances known as autoantibodies. It is therefore essential for doctors to know how to treat autoimmune diseases.

It should be noted that when the immune system attacks the body, it destroys healthy cells and tissues. It also does so for no apparent reason wyile causing consequences that can be very serious. In fact, according to a publication of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, it’s estimated that 10% of the population suffers from one of these conditions.

But why does it happen? Quite simply, autoimmune diseases occur because the immune system “forgets” the functions it’s supposed to perform. So, instead of attacking the diseased cells and defending the healthy cells, it does the opposite. It ends up attacking healthy cells, thus putting a person’s health at serious risk.

What symptoms do autoimmune diseases produce?

When you suffer from any autoimmune disease, it must be treated for life, since it becomes a chronic disease.

It has not yet been discovered why these diseases occur. It has been concluded that in many cases they are often hereditary and that they affect more middle-aged women. They are also very difficult to prevent.

These autoimmune diseases can destroy one or more tissues in the body. Or they can affect several organs, causing them to greatly reduce their function. In this way they can severely affect the following organs, tissues, or cells:

  • Blood vessels
  • Connective tissues
  • Endocrine glands, such as the pituitary gland
  • Red blood cells
  • The skin

The warning symptoms of autoimmune diseases

The symptoms of these types of diseases can vary, as there are many of them. Of course, the symptoms are not the same for all, it is clear that each one manifests itself differently.

However, there are common signs that can be experienced before these diseases. Symptoms, on the other hand, can be confused with those of other conditions:

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • A fever
  • General malaise
  • Swelling and redness
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities.
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hair loss
  • Skin rashes

What autoimmune diseases are there?

 treat autoimmune diseases
Type 1 diabetes is one of the best-known autoimmune diseases. Here, the tissue responsible for insulin production is progressively destroyed.

Autoimmune diseases can be various and very different. The best-known are, among others, the following:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis
  • Celiac disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Addison’s disease
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Graves’ disease
  • Autoimmune vasculitis.
  • Pernicious anemia

Some of these diseases can be quite difficult to diagnose. Therefore, it’s very important to pay attention to some persistent symptoms that warn us that something is wrong inside the body.

If you have any suspicions, it’s important to go immediately to our trusted doctor. Only a specialist can order the relevant tests to diagnose and treat autoimmune diseases.

We think you may be interested in reading this, too: 5 Things You Should Know About Autoimmune Diseases

Risk factors

Anyone is capable of suffering from an autoimmune disease, as these diseases do not distinguish between any type of disease. However, multiple epidemiological data have established several risk factors. In this sense, the following conditions increase the probability of suffering from an autoimmune disease:

  • Being a woman. A study explains that this predisposition is due to the fact that the X chromosome (remembering that women have two of them, as opposed to men who only have one) has a greater number of genes related to the control of the immune system. Therefore, there’s a greater probability of suffering damage (mutations) that affect this control.
  • Advanced ages. According to research, for one of these diseases to develop, it’s necessary for the body to “fail” several “regulatory points” in the development of the cells of the immune system. With age, these mechanisms tend to become much less efficient, which would explain the phenomenon.
  • Being African-American or Hispanic in the case of lupus. Studies suggest that this may be due to genetic factors that favor greater reactivity of the autoantibodies typical of the disease.
  • Having a direct family member with an autoimmune disease. As a general rule, and according to research, the greater the number of family members with such a condition, the greater the risk of developing it. Certain genetic mutations have been identified in some diseases.
  • Exposure to chemicals and solvents. A study explains that many substances (toluene, methanol, xylene, arsenic, bisphenols, etc.) are capable of causing irreversible molecular damage: binding to specific receptors, and nucleic acids, decreasing the number of available antioxidants and inducing T-cell dysregulation, among other things.
  • Consuming foods high in fat, sugars, or highly processed foods. However, research indicates that this is a problem when the permeability of intestinal cells to certain “toxic” compounds in the diet is high. This is common in situations of intestinal dysbiosis.
  • Exposure to bacterial or viral infections. It’s possible that antigens from these microorganisms trigger the proliferation of certain types of B and T lymphocytes crucial for the development of autoimmune diseases, according to studies.

How is the diagnosis made?

Unfortunately, there is no specific test to diagnose autoimmune diseases. The physician should perform a thorough question to analyze the symptoms presented, as well as a physical examination to look for pathognomonic (specific) signs of a disease.

The antinuclear antibody test is one of the first tests indicated. This test can detect the presence of specific antibodies against certain healthy tissues, however, it will not determine the specific disease you have. In turn, there are tests that can detect specific antibodies to certain diseases.

How should autoimmune diseases be treated?

medication to treat autoimmune diseases
There are several drugs that can be taken orally to control autoimmune conditions. Steroids are the most commonly used.

These diseases have no cure, therefore, they become chronic. However, research in this field is ongoing.

Treating autoimmune diseases is a challenge. Nowadays, treatment involves reducing symptoms and trying to control and regulate the immune system. The measures will be different for each disease. For example, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, it’s important to keep the pain under control.

The drugs with which autoimmune diseases can be treated include a variety of compounds. Corticosteroids stand out and should be administered with great caution. They cannot be used for very long periods of time, since they have side effects.

Other drugs used in the treatment of these pathologies are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The idea of these drugs is to alleviate the pain and inflammation generated by the pathology. Immunosuppressants other than steroids are also useful.

Other alternatives

Some people recommend the use of alternative measures to treat autoimmune diseases. However, studies on the effectiveness of these therapies are limited. In addition, some products may cause health repercussions, so their use is not recommended without prior medical authorization.

Treatment should be closely monitored by the specialist. That said, the one who is really responsible for its effectiveness is the patient him or herself, who must follow it to the letter. Never skip your doctor’s recommendations or treatments.

In addition, in the case of these diseases, as is the case of so many others, it’s very important to know your body very well. You must be attentive to any changes that appear and, if you discover anything abnormal or out of the ordinary, you should immediately go to a specialist.

The attitude of the affected person is also essential when treating autoimmune diseases. Early detection and scrupulous follow-up of the treatments are very important to slow down the progression of the disease. In addition, adopting a healthy lifestyle is very beneficial in the treatment.

Like this article? You may also like to read: 6 Natural Remedies That Prevent Autoimmune Diseases

Conditions with a delicate treatment

As you can see, treating autoimmune diseases is quite complex and the therapeutic measures will depend on the disease suffered. In general terms, corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and analgesics are used, however, everything must be prescribed by a specialist to avoid unwanted effects.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.