Autoimmune connective patients lupus
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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The term, "autoimmune disease" refers to a group of about 80 chronic illnesses that can involve almost every organ system. In these diseases, the underlying problem is that the body’s immune system goes “haywire” and attacks the body.. the biologic equivalent of "friendly fire." About 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women, most frequently during the childbearing years. Autoimmune diseases affect multiple organ systems.
Examples of autoimmune diseases include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis, Sjogren's disease, and progressive systemic sclerosis all of which affect connective tissue.
Hormonal factors play a role in causing some autoimmune diseases. Some cases improve during pregnancy and flare up after delivery (rheumatoid arthritis), while others will get worse during pregnancy (lupus), or flare up after menopause (gout, polymyalgia rheumatica).
Autoimmune diseases also seem to have a hereditary component.
The diagnosis of an autoimmune disease is based on history, physical examination, and results of laboratory tests. Lupus patients often have specific antibody abnormalities including elevated levels of antibodies to double-stranded DNA. They may also have other auto-antibodies such as anti-Sm, anti-RNP, anti- Ro, and anti-La. Some patients with lupus also have antibodies directed against coagulation factors. Examples include anti-cardiolipin antibody and lupus anticoagulant.
Autoimmune diseases are often difficult to diagnose, especially early on in the disease. In some cases a specific diagnosis cannot be made and close follow up is needed. Although autoimmune diseases are chronic, the course they take is variable.
In some diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, medications can slow or stop the immune system’s devastating effects on internal organs. These medications, called immunosuppressive medications, while effective, also have potentially serious side effects.
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