An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system (that normally attacks bacteria and viruses) mistakenly attacks the body. Depending on the type, an autoimmune disease can affect one or many different types of body tissue.
Over 29 million Americans are affected by an autoimmune disease, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). About 2 million Canadians are affected by autoimmune diseases.
For some people, the disease is temporary, whereas more typically these diseases must be managed lifelong. Also, they tend to appear during or shortly after puberty.
An estimated 25% of patients who have one autoimmune disease have a tendency to develop another.
Women, especially Hispanic-American, African-American, and Native-American, have a higher risk for some autoimmune diseases.
There are around 100 different autoimmune diseases. Here are some of the most common ones:
It is an autoimmune disorder that causes healthy skin cells to turn over at an abnormally fast rate. About 8 million people in the US will develop psoriasis.
According to the World Psoriasis Day consortium, about 125 million people worldwide have psoriasis.
The symptoms may include:
- shedding of scales of the skin;
- itchiness, but many patients do not feel itchy at all;
- red scaly patches on elbows, knees, scalp, and other parts of the body.
Type I Diabetes Mellitus
In type 1 diabetes, the immune system’s antibodies destroy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This leads to inappropriate hyperglycemia and deranged metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
It is not caused by the amount of sugar in a patient’s diet before the disease develops.
Approximately 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes. The ADA estimates that over 40,000 individuals receive a type 1 diagnosis each year in the US. Prevalence is increasing worldwide, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
- yeast infections;
- frequent urination;
- unexplained weight loss;
- increased thirst;
- increased appetite;
- itchy or dry skin;
- dry mouth.
READ MORE: Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Spiritual Meaning
RA is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation of joints. RA is a systemic disease, which means it can affect the whole body.
An estimated 1.4 million people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis.
RA usually begins to affect people between the ages of 30 and 60 years old. Females are more likely to develop RA at a younger age than males.
It is the 3rd most common type of arthritis behind gout and osteoarthritis.
The following joint symptoms are clues to rheumatoid arthritis:
- the same joints on both sides of the body are affected;
- small joints are affected;
- joint pain, swelling, tenderness, or stiffness for 50 days or longer;
- more than one joint is affected;
- morning stiffness for half an hour or longer.
READ MORE: Spiritual Meaning of Arthritis
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
This term is mainly used to describe two conditions: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
In this disease, the immune system attacks the lining of the intestines, causing episodes of rectal bleeding, diarrhea, abdominal pain, urgent bowel movements, unexplained weight loss, and high temperature (fever).
Over 1.7 million Americans have inflammatory bowel disease. As many as 70,000 new cases of IBD are diagnosed
in the US each year. Also, IBD is more common among non-Hispanic whites than other ethnicities.
According to statistics, ulcerative colitis is slightly more common in men than women, while Crohn’s disease is slightly more common in women than men.
Note – if you smoke tobacco, you are more likely to get Crohn’s disease.
Guillain Barre Syndrome
It is a rare condition in which your immune system attacks your peripheral nervous system which leads to muscle weakness. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, GBS affects about 1 in 100,000 people in the United States.
Some of the symptoms of GBS are:
- persistent and/or severe pain;
- difficulty walking without assistance;
- difficulty peeing;
- problems chewing;
- difficulty speaking;
- an inability to move the legs;
- double vision;
- difficulty breathing.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
It can affect almost any organ or system of the body, and it is characterized by flare-ups and periods of improvement. It has been estimated to affect around 0.75 million people in the US.
In people with systemic lupus erythematosus, suppressor cells are underactive whereas B cells are hyperactive.
Over 90 percent of cases of systemic lupus erythematosus occurs in women. Some of the triggers for flare-ups include viral infections, UV radiation, and stress.
In SS, the immune system attacks the saliva glands. It is more common in women and typically affects people aged 40-60. Between 400,000 and 3.1 million adults have SS.
The more common symptoms of SS include:
- general achiness;
- dry eyes;
- joint pain;
- tiredness (fatigue);
- tenderness of the glands around the neck, face, groin, and armpits;
- difficulty swallowing;
- difficulty eating dry foods;
- dry mouth.
In multiple sclerosis, the autoimmune cells cause damage to the myelin sheath which usually acts as the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells.
Common symptoms include:
- emotional changes;
- cognitive dysfunction;
- sexual dysfunction;
- coordination problems;
- walking problems;
- bladder dysfunction;
- vision problems.
Addison’s disease is a rare disorder of the adrenal glands which affects about 1 in 100,000 people.
AD occurs in all age groups and afflicts females and males equally.
Symptoms may include the following:
- low blood pressure;
- difficulty in standing up;
- lack of motivation;
- joint pain;
- muscle weakness and pain;
- changes in personality and mood;
- sexual dysfunction;
- mild depression;
- irregular menstrual periods;
- low blood volume;
- low blood sugar;
- craving for foods with high sodium content;
- lack of appetite;
- loss of body hair;
- unintentional weight loss.
READ MORE: Headaches and Migraines: Spiritual Cause
Spiritual Causes of Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases occur when the body defectively mixes many processes as these disorders are related to allergies, inflammations, and cancer-like dynamics.
These disorders are the result of certain defense mechanisms in which the body no longer recognizes its own cells and begins to destroy them as foreign and dangerous agents. Also, these diseases are degenerative in the sense that they no longer respect the natural laws of organic recognition.
Autoimmune diseases reflect our inability to recognize, see, or accept ourselves as who we are. This difficulty is often worsened by the search for external responsibilities. We are involved in a struggle with a world that doesn’t understand us, doesn’t recognize us, doesn’t love us, even though it really is our problem.
We think of life in dual terms only: things can only be good or bad, and we experience situations in terms of justice or injustice. Therefore, the permanent conflict strategy and the compulsive defense eventually cause our self-destruction.
Images credit – Shutterstock
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