An autoimmune disease is one in which the bodyвЂ™s own immune system attacks itself. Approximately 5-7% of the population is affected by the eighty known or suspected autoimmune diseases recognized by the medical community.
Your immune system is what normally protects you from disease.В ItвЂ™s an efficient defender against illness, but in autoimmune diseases this powerful and efficient machine begins to attack a bodyвЂ™s own organs and it can have devastating effects.В The symptoms and effects of these diseases are varied and some can be fatal.
Some of the better known autoimmune diseases are Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus.В For some reason, women are more likely to be affected by an autoimmune disease than men.В More than half of people with Multiple Sclerosis are women, and the numbers with Lupus are even higher: 9 out of 10 people with Lupus are female.
Researchers are looking at the reasons why this may beвЂ”including which genetic factors play a role in the triggering of these diseases.
The symptoms of an autoimmune disease are usually specific to the type of diagnosis received.
Multiple Sclerosis symptoms vary from patient to patient, but some symptoms are relatively common, such as weakness and trouble with coordination and balance, speaking and walking. Other signs of the disease are paralysis, tremors, numbness and tingling in arms, legs, hands and feet.В Multiple Sclerosis is diagnosed through MRIвЂ™s, Lumbar Punctures and diagnostic exams of the body done by a neurologist.
The name Multiple Sclerosis means multiple or many scars or lesions.В These lesions appear on the brain and spinal cord as the myelin sheath covering the nerves is damaged or destroyed as the immune system mistakenly attacks itself. There are different types of MS, and each has a unique pattern of symptoms.В Some patientвЂ™s lives are greatly affected by their disease while others show minimal symptoms.
With Lupus, the immune system goes on a rampage, targeting various organs in the body causing swelling and damage in the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain. It also raises a вЂbutterflyвЂ™ rash across the nose and cheeks, as well as rashes on other parts of the body.В Sensitivity to the sun is also known to be a component of Lupus. Lupus is diagnosed through various blood tests and physical exams.
If youвЂ™re living with an autoimmune disease there are things you can do to lessen the symptoms.
- Eat a healthy diet. Do your best to eat a balanced and nutritional diet and get your vitamins from food, rather than from pills. Avoid fatty foods and eat plenty of calcium-rich foods like fat free or low-fat milk and yogurt.
- Get regular exercise. Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program, but thirty minutes a day is best for optimal health.В Find out from your doctor what kind of exercise is right for you.В Sometimes yoga and tai chi exercise can be helpful.
- Get enough rest.В Allow your body tissues and joints sufficient time to rest and repair.В Sleep is the best way to restore yourself in body and mind.В Not getting enough rest can cause you more stress and your symptoms could become worse.В If your resistance is low due to an autoimmune disease then adding no sleep to that mix is a recipe for illness.В You need good restful sleep in order to fight off sickness
- Reduce the stress in your life.В You may be able to lessen muscle pain or spasms and be better able to deal with other aspects of your chronic disease if you lessen the stress surrounding you. There are various ways to do this, by using imagery or distraction to focus your thoughts elsewhere rather than on your pain.
While there are no cures for autoimmune diseases, there are a great many treatments to ameliorate the pain and slow the progress of these illnesses.