What Are the Most Common Autoimmune Diseases?

What Are the Most Common Autoimmune Diseases?

By some estimates, there are more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, while the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) includes conditions related to autoimmune disease on their list, which totals more than 100 disorders. Some of these diseases are extremely rare, while others are more common. They all share the same characteristic: the immune system malfunctions, mistakenly attacking healthy tissue. Here’s a look into the most common autoimmune diseases. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Arthritis Foundation states that there are 1.5 million people in the U.S. with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with women being three times more likely to get it than men. In this condition, the immune system attacks the synovium or lining between joints. Inflammation can also occur in other parts of the body, such as the eyes, heart, and circulatory system.

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis in children under the age of 16. Patients experience joint pain which may persist for only a few months, while others may have it for years. Swelling and stiffness are also common, and larger joints, such as the knees, are often affected.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus)

Lupus is notoriously challenging to diagnose because it bears similarities to many other conditions. The inflammation caused by the disease can affect various parts of the body, including the lungs, kidneys, heart, joints, and skin, among others. Fatigue, skin rash, and fever may also occur. An estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. have lupus, 9 out of 10 of whom are women.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Sometimes, psoriasis may be accompanied by arthritis. Either the joint issues or the skin problems related to psoriasis may appear first. Psoriasis is characterized by red patches covered by silvery scales, which are caused by the body’s immune system creating an overproduction of skin cells. The inflammatory response can then affect the joints, leading to pain, swelling, and stiffness. Psoriatic arthritis affects roughly 30% of people with psoriasis.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease is the collective term for disorders caused by chronic inflammation of the intestines. Ulcerative colitis is one common form, in which inflammation and ulcers form in the large intestine and rectum. Crohn’s disease is another common form, in which the lining of the digestive tract becomes inflamed.

If you suffer from any one of the most common autoimmune diseases, contact our care coordinator today to learn more about the options you have.

Five Early Signs of Autoimmune Disease

Five Early Signs of Autoimmune Disease

According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are more than 100 known autoimmune diseases. While some have unique, specific symptoms, for many of these conditions, there are striking similarities. In particular, a few signs of autoimmune disease can manifest early on, potentially even years before a formal diagnosis. Here are a few early signs of autoimmune disease.

Weight Changes
If your weight is fluctuating even without changes to your diet or exercise patterns, take note. This symptom could point to autoimmune issues such as hypothyroidism, in which the production of key hormones causes weight gain. 

Fatigue
Another common indicator of autoimmune disease is fatigue. It’s the most common symptom reported by people with autoimmune disorders, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes. Experts believe the root cause of this symptom is widespread inflammation, which can affect oxygen and nutrient supply, metabolism, and mood.

Skin Changes
Rashes can be seen in autoimmune diseases such as lupus. In this condition, patients often notice a butterfly-shaped rash, which usually appears on the face. While the rash is an indication of inflammation affecting the skin, it can also spread elsewhere, such as the joints and organs.

Muscle or Joint Pain
While joint pain can develop from long-term wear and tear, unexplained joint pain could indicate an immune system issue. The symptom is a hallmark trait of both rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, for example.

Digestive Issues
Digestive changes such as diarrhea, bloating, and gas can be attributed to poor eating patterns, but prolonged symptoms without dietary changes can suggest autoimmune issues. In irritable bowel disorders, these symptoms can indicate intestinal issues that require long-term care.

Symptoms of autoimmune conditions often mimic the signs of other conditions and illnesses. Unfortunately, many of these conditions don’t have a single test that can confirm a diagnosis. For this reason, it will be important to work closely with your doctor to discuss symptoms, diagnostic criteria, and testing methods. 

Patients today who are diagnosed are looking into other alternative treatment options. One of those options is regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy. Stem cells are naturally found within the body and have the ability to self-renew and differentiate into specialized cell types. They act as the body’s natural repair kit and also have anti-inflammatory properties. If you are interested then contact a care coordinator today!

Stem Cell Therapy & Lower Back Pain: What You Should Know

Stem Cell Therapy & Lower Back Pain: What You Should Know

The lower back plays a critical role in supporting the body and helping us stay upright. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the areas that experience the most pressure. The lower back clinically referred to as the lumbar spine, is made up of muscles, bone, and other tissue. The tissue, in particular, cushions the spine and protects it from the strain on our back, neck, and shoulders.

The lumbar spine comprises five vertebrae, and in between each is a specific type of soft tissue known as a disc. Large muscles also surround the vertebrae, and facet joints, or bands of connective tissue, are located between the vertebrae. Each part of this tissue network plays an important role in the support and mobility of your spine. They work together, balancing each other.

When an imbalance occurs, the result is often back pain. The source of the pain can be a single cause or a combination of factors. At its core, however, low back pain is almost always caused by the degradation of soft tissue. It’s often most pronounced in the spinal discs and facet joints, which contribute to movement throughout the upper body. 

When discs degenerate, the discs collapse, causing the space between vertebrae to narrow. As this happens, the facet joints become strained, causing damage to the surrounding articular cartilage. Once cartilage starts to wear away, bones in the back can rub together, ultimately causing bone spurs. 

Previously, there were few treatment options available for chronic lower back pain, all of which had their side effects to consider. While steroid injections offer temporary relief, they’re associated with side effects such as nerve damage. Surgery may be recommended in extreme cases, but back procedures are invasive and can therefore pose risks. Physical therapy can also help patients find relief, but it’s not always enough to help patients eliminate pain and restore mobility.

Fortunately, regenerative therapies such as stem cell treatments are helping patients find noticeable improvements in their symptoms. These treatments have been shown to be safe and effective, and unlike conventional practices, can help to address the soft tissue damage causing back pain. 

The process entails acquiring the stem cells from either the patient’s adipose (fat) or bone marrow tissues or by a donated source of umbilical cord tissue. They are then administered directly into the compromised area under fluoroscopic guidance. There, the cells kickstart the body’s natural healing process by self-renewing and transforming into specialized cell types. Stem cells have the ability to heal damaged tissue and restore areas of tissue damage. With this cellular approach to healing, patients can pursue a more effective pain relief strategy than conventional treatments alone will provide. If you are interested then contact a care coordinator today!

Stem Cell Treatment Explained: A Beginner’s Guide to the Regenerative Therapy

Stem Cell Treatment Explained: A Beginner’s Guide to the Regenerative Therapy

Regenerative therapy is an emerging subset of healthcare that leverages treatments aimed to functionally restore specific tissues in the body. It helps patients with chronic illness or persistent injuries when traditional medicine has fallen short. One of the most promising forms of regenerative medicine is stem cell therapy.

Although it’s already been in place for many years, stem cell therapy is still considered a “new” treatment, as practitioners are still finding novel applications for stem cells all the time. More than one million treatments have been performed since the therapy’s inception, and outcomes are significantly improving as protocols are refined. Here’s what you should know about stem cell therapy.

What Are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are the body’s natural repair kit. They’re the building blocks upon which all tissues and organs are built since they have the ability to transform into mature cells. While every mature cell type has a specific role – muscle cells support the muscular system, for example – stem cells’ primary role is to regenerate into other cells as needed.

If tissue breaks down due to injury, for example, stem cells will target the affected area and regenerate into the specialized cell types. When transforming into these distinct cells, they take on their properties and functions. 

A stem cell can turn into any one of the following differentiated cell types:

  • Bone cells
  • Muscle cells
  • Blood cells
  • Fat cells
  • Skin cells
  • Nerve cells
  • Stem cells (through the process of self-renewal)

Stem cells are already within our bodies, so they are not a new “invention” from scientists. While they can be harvested and transplanted from external sources, they are also able to be retrieved from the patient themselves.

Stem cells have been found naturally within the brain, as well as bone marrow, adipose (fat) tissue, and the umbilical cord tissue. They are also present in the muscles, skin, and liver.

Our bodies are constantly regenerating stem cells. For instance, we shed skin cells all the time, and thus have an entirely new set of skin every two to three weeks. Our intestinal lining and liver also have innate regenerative qualities. And, while many different systems excel at regenerating on their own, other parts need some assistance. This is the very reason stem cell therapy was created.

Doctors can extract stem cells from a patient, then concentrate and activate them to ready them for therapeutic use in the body. They can then be transplanted to the area where they are needed most, where they’ll renew, multiply, and differentiate into specialized cells with distinct properties.

Where Do Stem Cells Originate From?

Stem cells are present in embryos as well as the adult body. Embryonic stem cells are only used in research applications after they’ve been donated by individuals who have undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) after consent. 

Adult stem cells referred to as pluripotent stem cells, have been used in therapeutic applications since the 1950s. While they can only multiply a certain number of times and transform into specific cell types, they still hold tremendous potential in therapeutic applications.

There are many new applications for disease and injury treatment is continuing to be discovered by stem cell researchers. Since the earliest findings of stem cells showed that there were considerable concentrations in the bone marrow, they were widely used as bone marrow transplants for patients with leukemia and other blood diseases. By 2010, stem cell therapy was being used for spinal injuries, and its applications in orthopedics have progressed rapidly since then. 

In addition to patient-derived sources such a bone marrow or adipose (fat) tissues, stem cells can also be found in the umbilical cord. These cells are donated after a c-section birth by a patient who has given the proper consent and has been thoroughly screened for blood diseases. For patients who have insufficient stem cell sources or maybe of a certain age, umbilical stem cells may be a good alternative. 

What Is Stem Cell Therapy?

While stem cell therapy is a cutting-edge medical option with immeasurable potential, the process itself is fairly simple. Choosing the provider is also part of the process of discovering stem cell therapy as a potential option.

First, the patient undergoes a consultation to discuss their condition and symptoms. The healthcare provider must ensure they’re a good candidate for stem cell therapy, and if so, determine which protocols will suit the patient best.

Once the stem cells have been acquired from either the patient or from a donated tissue source, they are prepared to then be readministered to the patient in targeted areas in their pre-determined treatment plan. Stringent quality control measures are in place to promote safety and optimal patient outcomes.

As the stem cells proliferate and transform into the necessary cell types, some symptoms may improve. The goal of these therapeutic treatments is to help stop or halt the progression of the patient’s condition and some also may gain symptom improvements as well as a result. Since treatment is delivered via injection and there is no large surgical site, symptoms are minimal and may include slight temporary soreness. 

The benefits of regenerative therapy are vast, however. Not only is it simple and convenient, but it can help to reverse the effects of chronic, challenging conditions. As more positive research emerges, it will likely become even more widely embraced as a go-to treatment method.

How Is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?

How Is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, there is no single test available which can diagnose MS on its own. Instead, healthcare providers must use a variety of approaches to confirm that a patient has the condition. These may include lab tests, neurologic exams, and the patient’s medical history. Here is how multiple sclerosis diagnosed.

Doctors must also rule out other conditions which bear similar symptoms. For instance, infections such as Lyme disease, inflammatory disorders such as vasculitis, genetic conditions, and vitamin deficiencies can all cause neurological symptoms. Various tests, including MRI, blood tests, and a spinal fluid analysis are used to rule out these conditions and confirm the presence of MS. 

As doctors work to rule out other conditions, the diagnosis process can take considerable time. Some patients may receive a definitive MS diagnosis relatively quickly, however. An accurate and timely diagnosis is critical, since uncovering the root cause for worrisome and uncomfortable symptoms can allow you to focus on treatment and alleviate any concerns over other potential causes. Moreover, starting treatment early can help to control the progression of Multiple Sclerosis, as neurologic damage can begin early on. 

What Criteria Must Be Present for an MS Diagnosis?

For a confirmed MS diagnosis, there must be:

  • Evidence of damage in at least two areas of the central nervous system (CNS), such as the spinal cord, brain, or optic nerve
  • Evidence that the damage found occurred at different times

In addition, all other potential diagnoses must be ruled out. 

What Methods Are Used to Diagnose MS? 

The McDonald Criteria call for specific guidelines for diagnosing MS using MRI and cerebrospinal fluid. An MRI may be able to uncover a second area of damage in an individual who has experienced only one MS attack. In some cases, cerebrospinal fluid analysis can also indicate two separate instances of damage. 

In addition to these measures, doctors will also ask you to describe any symptoms you’ve experienced, and may also gather information about your medical and family history, preexisting conditions, and places of travel which could indicate other illnesses or MS. They’ll also perform a comprehensive neurologic evaluation, which will encompass an analysis of the cranial nerves through swallowing and facial sensation, among other measures. Reflexes, coordination, sensation, gait, and balance will also be looked at. 

Oftentimes, medical history and neurologic exams are sufficient for getting Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed. Additional testing can confirm the diagnosis or uncover other potential causes for symptoms.

While there is no blood test that concludes the presence of MS, a blood draw can be used to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. For instance, vitamin deficiencies, certain infections, and conditions such as Sjogren’s or lupus may be identified through a blood test. If you would like to learn more please contact a care coordinator today!

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