Normally, the body’s immune system recognizes any foreign body as an antigen and produces what are known as antibodies. However, in autoimmune disorders, the body produces antibodies against the body’s own tissue. This is an abnormality and depending on what factor is triggering the production of antibodies, there are various types of autoimmune disorders (AID). When we look at the musculoskeletal system, there are quite a few, the top 4 being:
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
In all these conditions, the body produces antibodies against its own tissue, producing these conditions.
- Family history is definitely an attribute to developing autoimmune diseases
- Environmental pollution
- Lifestyle including lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol use
Know more about these:
- Scleroderma: Can be localized or generalized, the upper layers of the skin get thicker (sclerosis). This can be nodular or diffuse, and can also affect children. The skin and muscles are usually affected, but in severe cases, it can affect internal organs such as lungs and heart.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus: SLE, as it is often called, is very common and can be diagnosed as scleroderma in the initial stages. It can also occur with other autoimmune conditions and some of the types include cutaneous lupus, systemic lupus, drug-induced lupus, and neonatal lupus.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: The most common autoimmune rheumatic disease is RA, which causes inflammation of the joint spaces. There would be pain, stiffness, and swelling of the joints. This needs to be segregated as RA, as the symptoms are similar to any other form of arthritis. Treatment includes a combination of pain killers, heat and cold therapy, massage, steroid injections, and immune controlling agents.
- Sjogren’s syndrome: The symptoms are characteristic with dry mucous membranes including those of the eyes, mouth, and vagina. There could be accompanying pain and redness, significant fatigue, fibromyalgia, and complications relating to other organs.
Diagnosis: Autoimmune diseases are tricky to diagnose as other diseases with similar symptoms need to be ruled out first. In some cases, there are specific antibodies, and checking their levels can help identify the underlying condition.
Management: For all the rheumatic autoimmune diseases, treatment is a multipronged approach with lifestyle changes, drugs, and alternative therapies.
Lifestyle changes: A healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate vitamin and mineral supplementation is a must.
Drugs: Some drugs used are:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- ACE inhibitors
- Immunomodulatory therapy
- Stem cell transplants
Alternative therapies such as massages with herbal oils, acupuncture, and cold therapy are widely used to control inflammation. In addition, alcohol and smoking and exposure to environmental pollution need to be controlled.
In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!