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What Causes A Person To Develop An Autoimmune Disorder?
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What Causes A Person to Develop An Autoimmune Disorder?

Our bodies have ways of keeping us healthy. The primary way it does that is through our immune system and antibodies. Our antibodies fight off what is seen as invaders. They keep us well. Sometimes though, like in the case of autoimmune disorders, the body cannot tell the difference between itself and non-self (invaders) and it ends up attacking itself by accident. These antibodies that attack healthy tissues and organs are called auto-bodies. When these auto-bodies attack our healthy organs it causes a person to develop an autoimmune disorder.

Interestingly, autoimmune disorders largely affect women. There are more than 80 different types of various known autoimmune disorders. A few you may have heard of are (this is by no means an all-inclusive list):

  • Diabetes Type I
  • Graves’ Disease
  • Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
  • Scleroderma
  • Lupus
  • Vitiligo

While the causes of autoimmune diseases aren’t exactly known, a few of the suggested culprits have been genetics, gluten (implicated as a significant cause), and/or a virus attacking a particular and otherwise healthy organ or tissue.

Depending on the diseases, they are treated in different ways. Some diseases, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, affect your body's ability to create a specific needed substance. In this case, it would be thyroid hormone. So treatment would include thyroid supplementation to replace the thyroid hormone that is not being produced. Other treatments suppress the immune system to prevent it from attacking itself even more. These treatments are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Other treatments such as pain medications are often used to treat symptoms as many autoimmune diseases cause inflammation and are quite painful.

Sometimes the disease will go into remission and not bother the person ever again. Other times it is just for long periods of time, but when it comes back and "flares up" the symptoms are often sudden and severe. You should see your doctor to determine if you need treatment. It may also help to keep a log when a flare up happens so you can identify triggers and patterns.

Believe it or not, all of the things we constantly hear about taking care of ourselves also holds true in lessening the severity of autoimmune diseases. These include:

  • Eating well - eat a well-balanced diet
  • Getting regular exercise - any exercise is better than no exercise
  • Getting enough sleep - many people underestimate just how critical and simple this one item is
  • Reduce stress where you can - get a weekly massage, keep a calendar to keep you organized, take a "you" day once a month

Living with any autoimmune disorder can greatly impact your life, but the more you know about it and existing treatment options you will be well on your way to feeling better.


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