Autoimmune Diseases - Managing autoimmune diseases

Scientists are studying what turns the autoimmune disease on. The possibilities include the patient having a previous infection, unusual levels of stress, weight gain, or high hormonal levels. It could also be a combination of these factors.

An autoimmune disease does not progress smoothly. There are periods of rapid decline, and periods of remission where the disease is not as influential on the body. The care that the patient takes with following doctor's orders can help in alleviating some, but not all, of the symptoms.

The diseases vary as well from individual to individual. Some patients with diabetes mellitus will live relatively normal, healthy lives for decades with almost no side effects from the disease besides dependence on insulin. Other patients, even under strict diet and insulin monitoring, may suffer from many of the side effects such as neuropathy (death of the nerves in the arms and legs), blindness, and kidney failure. Why patients’ reactions vary like this is not understood.

It is essential, though, that anyone with an autoimmune disease understand what behaviors and habits are harmful and avoid them. For a diabetic, controlling one's diet is essential. Although it requires constant monitoring, no diabetic can avoid the strict attention to dietary needs that diabetes requires. Ignoring the diet rules can kill a diabetic in days.

For people with lupus and psoriasis, stress increases the severity of the disease. Because the nerves release peptides that increase the body's immune response during periods of stress, the effect or the disease becomes worse during stressful times. Patients with stress-enhanced diseases may have to take meditation courses, change jobs, and practice daily relaxation exercises to lower their stress level.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is capable of attacking any human tissue. For reasons unknown to scientists, it is almost exclusively a disease that affects females. Only 10 percent of the sufferers are male. The disease attacks a variety of areas in the body, and the attacks differ from patient to patient. The most common areas, though, are the joints, kidneys, and the brain. It also undergoes periods of remission, but anxiety over having another attack can actually trigger another attack. Optimism about the disease's course by the patient can improve the patient's outlook.

Graves’ disease also affects more women than men, but not as disproportionately as lupus. Graves’ is one of several autoimmune diseases that affects the thyroid. It increases the hormone that regulates the metabolism, making weight gain a common side effect.

There are usually support and awareness groups for autoimmune disease sufferers. Check in your phone book for a local affiliation, and check with your physician. He or she can put you in contact with an organization that will assist you with information and encouragement. Since your mental attitude is very important in the treatment of the disease, it is in your best interest to take care of your spirits as well as your body.

Early detection

If you have a blood relative with an autoimmune disease, you should familiarize yourself and your family with the early symptoms of the disease. If there are tests that can be run (most of these diseases have simple blood tests), then you should discuss with your physician how often you should be tested for the disease. Ask about family testing and at what age your children should start getting tested.

With some of these diseases, science is developing some preventative treatments that may help keep a child from developing the disease. For example, diabetes specialists have several test groups in place to check different preventative measures. If one works it may become available to the general population.

Your strongest weapon is information. Know what to look for, what to expect, and be active in getting medical checks for the diseases for which you and your family are at risk. Avoid the things (like weight gain) that may increase your chances of getting an autoimmune disorder, and maintain general good health.

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