Autoimmune Disease - Medical Negligence Lawyers
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Autoimmune Diseases - Medical Negligence
Our immune system usually works the way it is supposed to. It fights off things that are foreign to the body and keeps us healthy through the use of a network of cells that detect, identify and get rid of foreign agents such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. The immune system only works when we can identify “self” parts and ”non-self” parts. When this process gets mixed up and self objects are accidently labeled as non-self objects, the body makes autoantibodies against otherwise normal tissue. This tissue gets inflamed. The type of tissue involved determines the type of symptoms a person has. There are 80 known types of autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune diseases are considered common overall with over a million Australians having some variety of autoimmune disease. Some are very common, while others are considered very rare.
Anyone can get autoimmune diseases but there are people who have a greater chance to get the disease than others. For example, women are likely to get this type of disease than men. Autoimmune diseases tend to run in families, especially in diseases like multiple sclerosis and lupus. Different autoimmune diseases can affect different family members but the propensity for these diseases will run in the same family. There are certain environmental factors that play a role in getting autoimmune diseases. People with certain ethnicities will have a certain autoimmune disease. Lupus is a more severe disease in patients of African or Hispanic descent.
While autoimmune diseases have different symptoms, they all share the symptoms of dizziness, tiredness and a low fever. Symptoms can be continuous or intermittent. These are the diseases that are more common in women than in men:
- Alopecia areata—this involves patchy hair loss
- Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome—there are multiple miscarriages and blood clots
- Autoimmune hepatitis—the liver is enlarged and the woman is jaundiced
- Celiac disease—there are abdominal symptoms and weight changes
- Type I diabetes—the blood sugar is elevated and insulin is necessary
- Grave’s disease—it involves an excess of thyroid hormone
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome—it involves muscle weakness especially in the legs
- Hashimoto’s disease—this is an abnormality of the thyroid gland
- Hemolytic anemia—the body makes antibodies to destroy red blood cells
- Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura—antibiotics made against platelets
- Inflammatory bowel disease—antibodies against bowel tissue
- Multiple sclerosis—antibodies against myelin which covers nerves
- Myasthenia gravis—muscles and nerves are attacked
- Primary biliary cirrhosis—the liver cells are attacked
- Psoriasis—the skin is affected
- Rheumatoid arthritis—the joints are affected
- Scleroderma—a connective tissue disease involving connective tissue
- Sjogren’s syndrome—affects the moisture producing glands
- Lupus—affects many body areas including joints
- Vitiligo—affects the pigmented areas of the skin, turning it white
Diagnosing an autoimmune disease can be difficult. It starts with a long history of symptoms, a family history and a physical examination to see if there are any findings suspicious for autoimmune disease. Then blood is checked for autoantibodies. Because there are so many autoantibodies, the doctor has to have a reasonable idea of which antibodies to check for. Usually several are checked to make sure that the specific autoantibody is discovered and the diagnosis is made.
When you have an autoimmune disease, you may need to be seen by multiple doctors. They include kidney specialists, rheumatologists, neurologists, endocrinologists skin doctors and multiple therapists. These are the people who will manage your disease.
Treatment of autoimmune diseases can be frustrating and difficult. Symptoms need to be managed with pain medication which can range from over the counter pain medication to strong pain medication prescribed by the doctor. You may need to receive medication that replaces what your body no longer has. This might be insulin for type I diabetes or thyroid replacement for those with Hashimoto’s disease.
There may need to be drugs that suppress the immune system. There are many medications specifically designed for immunosuppression. They are used in almost every variety of autoimmune disease.
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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here