An autoimmune disease is the result of a malfunction in the immune system where healthy cells are mistaken for foreign bodies, causing the immune system to attack healthy cells in the body. It is estimated that as many as 50 million Americans suffer from some form of autoimmune disease. There are many different forms, and the symptoms and effects will vary from case to case. Treatment for autoimmune diseases typically focuses and managing pain and symptoms of the condition.
Signs and Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune diseases can develop from a variety of factors with no known definitive causes for the onset of the disease. Some suspected sources are:
- Bacterial or viral infection
- Effects from certain drugs
- Chemical toxins
- Environmental pollutants
When the immune system determines that healthy cells are foreign, it begins to produce antibodies to fight off the healthy cells it believes to be the source of an illness or infection. When an autoimmune disease is suspected, a rheumatologist will administer tests to determine what antibodies are being produced. There are more than 80 potential autoimmune diseases and some of the most common areas affect can be:
- Joints and muscles
- Red blood cells
- Blood vessels
- Connective tissue
When faced with symptoms or an autoimmune disease diagnosis, it is very important to seek treatment from an experienced rheumatologist to find the best plan to manage symptoms. Dr. Susan Baker, MD specializes in Rheumatology and Internal Medicine in Beverly Hills, and offers patients everything from arthritis treatment to Lupus.
Most Common Autoimmune Diseases
Rheumatoid Arthritis – Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammation of the lining of the joints, leading to pain and swelling typically in the hands and feet. It can affect anyone, but is most prevalent in women over 40. Rheumatoid arthritis can sometimes affect other organs as well, such as skin, eyes, lungs and blood vessels. As with all autoimmune disorders, treatment focuses on managing pain and minimizing bone erosion and joint damage.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis – Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis in children under 16. Symptoms usually include pain and swelling in the joints, and can vary from moderate to severe. In some cases, symptoms will subside over time while others can persist well into adulthood.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus) – Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because it shares symptoms with many other disorders. The inflammation resulting from lupus can affect many different areas of the body, from the lungs, heart, joints, skin, kidneys, and brain. Like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus is more prevalent in women and can sometimes be identified by a butterfly-shaped rash on the face, along with photosensitivity, fatigue and fever, joint pain, and other skin lesions that worsen under sun exposure.
Psoriatic Arthritis – People with the skin condition psoriasis sometimes develop arthritis as well, but in certain cases the joint inflammation can occur before the skin rash. The main symptoms of psoriasis are joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. The condition can affect any part of the body, such as the fingertips and spine, and range from mild to severe.
Inflammatory Bowel Arthritis (Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis) – With inflammatory bowel arthritis (or IBA), inflammation affects the intestines. With ulcerative colitis, the colon or large intestine are affected. Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, but usually occurs in either the small intestine or colon or both.
Arthritis Treatment in Beverly Hills
Are you experiencing symptoms or have already been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease? If so, contact Dr. Susan Baker MD in Beverly Hills today at (310) 448-2693 or online for an appointment or consultation.
Next, read more about 6 Common Questions About Arthritis.