Autoimmune disorders have put a great challenge on the medical field and modern technology. The onset, signs, symptoms, progression, and prognosis of each condition vary from person to person. Many cases are misdiagnosed or diagnosed late. Thus, immediate treatment plans are highly needed.
Modern healthcare has helped many patients control and treats the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. IVIG treatment, target-specific drugs, biological therapies, and advanced technology have been increasingly popular nowadays.
What An Autoimmune Disorder Is
The immune system is responsible for defending the body against infections. When foreign cells enter the body, it releases antibodies to attack and engulf the antigens. It protects the human body from viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.
An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body fails to recognize its own cells from foreign invaders. The immune system unintentionally attacks the healthy cells, leading to a disruption in the body’s homeostasis.
This creates significant overactive and underactive activities among various body organs. The cascade of events reduces the body’s ability to defend against antigens. Thus, it becomes vulnerable to infections.
Common Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune disorders affect the blood, joints, digestive system, nervous system, skin, and connective tissues all over the body. The most common autoimmune diseases are the following:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): a progressive, inflammatory, and idiopathic disease. The symptoms develop gradually from weeks to months. The diagnostic criteria for RA are morning stiffness, arthritis of three or more joints, symmetric arthritis, rheumatoid nodules, presence of rheumatoid serum factor, and radiographic changes.
Patients may feel body malaise and fatigue, which could worsen with physical activities. They may suffer from low-grade fever, weight loss, and depression and feel progressive stiffness and pain. RA has a symmetric distribution in the hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and knees.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): a systemic autoimmune disease characterized by the presence of pathogenic autoantibodies, the deposition of immune complexes, and tissue damage, which affect many organs of the body. Ninety percent of the affected population are women, and the onset of the disease is between the ages of 20 and 45.
A butterfly rash is the most recognized skin manifestation in SLE, which is often seen over the cheeks and nasal bridge. It can be raised or flat and sometimes pruritic or painful. Other manifestations of SLE are discoid rash, oral ulcers, photosensitivity, arthritis, and immunologic, neurologic, hematologic, cardiac, and renal disorders.
- Inflammatory bowel disease: an umbrella term used to describe two conditions that cause inflammation in the intestinal wall lining: ulcerative colitis and Chron’s disease. Ulcerative colitis affects the colon and rectum lining, while Chron’s disease inflames any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus.
- Multiple sclerosis: a progressive demyelinating idiopathic disease of the central nervous system. Genetic predisposition is the strongest risk factor for acquiring the disease. It may also be triggered by T-cell dysregulation, sun exposure, physical trauma, stress, and diet. It is commonly manifested by optic neuritis, blurred vision, diplopia, paroxysmal dystonia, pseudobulbar affect, and vibratory or electrical sensation with neck flexion.
- Myasthenia gravis (MG): a neuromuscular junction and motor endplate disease. Patients who have thymic disorders, diabetes, RA, and SLE are at risk of acquiring MG. Its cardinal features are fatigability and skeletal muscle weakness. Neurologic findings are normal but present with diplopia and ptosis, making an individual tilt their head back to see.
- Guillain-Barre syndrome: a polyradiculopathy autoimmune disease. The peripheral nervous system undergoes demyelination, which leads to the abrupt onset of paralysis. Its clinical features are ascending paralysis, cardiovascular instability, elevated cerebrospinal fluid protein, and mild sensory loss.
Factors That Cause Autoimmune Disorders
Each type of autoimmune disorder is unique in terms of its disease mechanism. And although the exact cause of autoimmune diseases may not be known, several factors may be involved, including the following.
- Genetic Predisposition
Autoimmune diseases may co-aggregate in families. A person with a positive family history is at high risk of acquiring an autoimmune disorder.
- Immune System Dysregulation
It could also be an idiopathic condition. There is an unknown mechanism for why an individual has developed an autoimmune disorder. In many cases, a patient has a negative familial history and no exposure to certain environmental factors.
- Environmental Factors
Environmental factors such as pristane, silica, pesticides, smoke, mercury, trichloroethene, and other toxic agents may increase the risk of acquiring an autoimmune disease
How To Manage Autoimmune Disorders
It is imperative to have an accurate diagnosis of the condition. Autoimmune diseases are normally hard to figure out in the early stages of their course, especially if other organs and systems are already greatly affected.
Autoimmune diseases cannot be cured, but the signs and symptoms could be treated. Systemic manifestations affect an individual’s quality of life. An effective treatment plan is a must to alleviate the condition.
It is important to know the basics of managing an autoimmune disorder. Here are some ways.
- Target-Specific Drugs
Target-specific drugs have been a great help for autoimmune disorder patients. They could alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and inhibit immune system activity. These bioengineered medications may control a specific symptom or the progression of the disease.
Pharmacology has made breakthroughs in producing effective drugs, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), insulin injections, immunosuppressant drugs, and corticosteroids.
- Stem Cell Transplantation
Stem cell transplantation is widely known for its cure for cancer. However, it’s believed to be highly effective in patients with autoimmune diseases. Transplanted stem cells can be autologous or provided by a donor.
Stem cells are healthy cells harvested and cultured to be injected into the bone marrow or blood. They’re said to help the body restore its normal function by producing platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells.
- Modern Technology
Modern technology has proven its importance in the medical field. It’s applied in advanced laboratory equipment, mobile health technologies (Mhealth), diagnostic procedures, and surgical machinery.
The early detection of diseases is crucial in formulating the right treatment plan. Autoimmune diseases are unpredictable. Thus, modern technology could help diagnose, monitor, and find ways to alleviate, if not treated a condition.
mHealth monitors and data-collecting devices are incorporated into smartphones, tablets, watches, wearables, and other devices. Patients and attending medical professionals have access to data that can be used to assess the disease’s progression.
Since the Covid-19s pandemic, telemedicine has also been increasingly utilized, keeping both the patient and healthcare worker safe from acquiring the virus. Modern technology products could provide accurate health records, convenience, and better treatment adherence.
Taking All Into Account
Autoimmune disorders are incurable, but the symptoms are manageable. The onset, signs, symptoms, and progression vary from person to person. Early diagnosis is crucial in finding the appropriate management of the disease.
Modern times have paved the way for people to have accessible resources to alleviate or treat many conditions. In the case of an autoimmune disorder, the basics for managing the disease may include target-specific drugs, stem cell transplantation, and modern technology. Applying these practices could ensure that the patient attains a good quality of life.