10 Most Common Autoimmune Diseases

10 Most Common Autoimmune Diseases

Your body is generally very good at telling what’s a foreign invader, like a virus or bacteria, and what’s not — but sometimes, it gets it wrong. 

If you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system has begun to associate parts of your body, like your skin or joints, as foreign. When this occurs, the body releases antibodies that attack those healthy cells. 

Essentially, your immune system overreacts. That’s what leads to autoimmune diseases. There are many of these kinds of illnesses, but some are much more common than others. 

1. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Attacking Your Joints

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which your immune system attacks the joints throughout your body. It attacks the joints on both sides of your body and leads to uncontrolled inflammation that damages cartilage. The joints can begin to deform, and your bones can even erode. 

You can experience symptoms like:

  • Pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weakness

With rheumatoid arthritis, you can have periods of remission when you have few to no symptoms, but these are followed by flare-ups. 

2. Type One Diabetes: Targeting Insulin-Producing Cells

Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which regulates your blood sugar levels. If you have type one diabetes, your immune system attacks the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. You can experience symptoms like:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Vaginal yeast infections
  • Slow healing of sores and cuts

Type one diabetes has a strong genetic component, and there may be certain environmental factors, like viruses or toxins, that can also trigger the disease if you have a predisposition. 

3. Multiple Sclerosis: Damaging Myelin Sheaths

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that damages the coating that surrounds nerve cells. These are called myelin sheaths, and if they’re damaged, the transmission speed of messages between your brain and your spinal cord can be delayed. 

You can experience symptoms like:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness 
  • Changes to your vision
  • Loss of balance
  • Mood changes
  • Trouble with cognitive function

You can experience remission periods in which you may not have any symptoms. 

4. Psoriasis: Leading Skin Cells to Multiple Too Quickly

Usually, skin cells grow and then die off and shed. Psoriasis causes cells to multiply too rapidly, leading to the formation of patches. People who have lighter skin tones can have patches that appear red with white plaque scales, while on darker skin tones, the patches can appear purple or dark brown with gray scales. 

It can cause symptoms like:

  • Raised areas of thick skin
  • Rashes
  • Flaky or scaly plaque 

There are a few types of psoriasis, with some appearing in your skin folds and some even causing pus-filled bumps. 

5. Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Swelling in the Intestinal Wall

Inflammatory bowel disease causes the lining of the intestinal wall to swell. Different parts of your gastrointestinal tract are affected depending on where the inflammation is located. 

Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fecal incontinence 

One type of inflammatory bowel disease is Crohn’s disease, which can cause inflammation anywhere along the tract, from your mouth to your anus. Ulcerative colitis, however, affects the lining of the large intestine and rectum. Microscopic colitis causes inflammation that can only be seen via a microscope. 

6. Lupus: Causing Inflammation Throughout Your Body

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your entire body. Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen glands
  • Hair loss
  • Fever
  • Rashes
  • Blood clots
  • Confusion

There are a few types of lupus, including lupus that only affects your skin and medication-induced lupus. 

7. Graves’ Disease: Overworking Your Thyroid

This type of immune disease attacks your thyroid gland, leading it to produce too many hormones. This can lead you to experience symptoms like:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Goiter
  • Heat intolerance

Some people who have this condition can experience symptoms that affect the skin or eyes. 

8. Addison’s Disease: Impacting the Adrenal Glands

Addison’s disease is a chronic condition in which your adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol is a hormone that helps your body respond to stress while also helping you maintain blood pressure, heart function, and more. Aldosterone is a hormone that controls your body’s sodium and potassium levels. 

You can experience symptoms like:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Patches of dark skin
  • Fatigue that gets progressively worse
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration 

Some people also experience low blood sugar levels with the disease. 

9. Sjögren’s Disease: Causing Dry Eyes and Mouth

This illness occurs when your immune system attacks the glands that create moisture in your mouth, eyes, and other parts of your body. There is primary Sjögren’s disease, which occurs on its own, and secondary Sjögren’s disease, which happens when another condition triggers the disease. 

You can experience symptoms like:

  • Dry nose and frequent nosebleeds
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Dry and itchy eyes
  • Dry throat 

Some people also experience muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, and even trouble swallowing. 

10. Celiac Disease: Attacking the GI Tract

People who have Celiac disease can’t have gluten, which is a protein found in rye, wheat, and other grain products. If you have this disease, your immune system reacts to any gluten it finds in the small intestine, leading to inflammation. You can experience symptoms like:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal bleeding 
  • Constipation 

Because your immune system attacks your gut if you eat gluten, it doesn’t allow you to receive the nutrients you need. People may experience nutritional deficiencies that can cause many other symptoms. 

Managing Autoimmune Diseases with Regenerative Medicine 

Most autoimmune conditions can be managed. One of the most promising options, especially when combined with other treatments, is regenerative medicine

Regenerative medicine options like stem cell therapy harness your body’s natural healing mechanisms. They can help reduce inflammation, which plays a huge role in most autoimmune diseases. With less inflammation, blood circulation improves, bringing more nutrients and oxygen to the affected areas. 

To determine whether regenerative medicine is a good choice to help manage your autoimmune conditions, consult with your doctor. 

Natural Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Relief

Natural Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Relief

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory disease. When you have RA, your immune system targets the tissues that line your joints, leading to pain and mobility issues. 

It’s a chronic condition that can worsen as time passes. However, it does respond well to lifestyle changes and other types of therapies. If you’d like to find natural remedies to help you manage the pain that RA causes, read on to learn more about the most effective options. 

Exercise: Easing Pain with Movement

It can be tough to think about moving and being active when you’re dealing with RA pain, but exercise can help. In particular, exercise can reduce your chances of muscle wasting, which is a concern for those with RA. Muscle wasting can in turn worsen fatigue, leading to a cycle of inactivity that only exacerbates the symptoms of the condition. 

Strengthening your muscles can help diminish pain by making them better able to support your joints. This helps improve flexibility and joint movement. Regular physical activity can also keep the cartilage in your joints lubricated, reducing stiffness and pain. 

You don’t have to go for strenuous exercise to get the benefits you want. Consider beginning with easier stretching exercises and progressing to more intensive options as you get stronger. You can also try balancing exercises to help prevent falls, as well as swimming or walking to keep your heart healthy. 

Acupuncture: Trying Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture has been in practice for thousands of years, making it one of the oldest forms of pain relief. It uses long and very thin needles to stimulate energy along your body using what are called meridian points. Acupuncture is based on the belief that your body needs to have a balanced qi (energy) to function at its best, and that’s what the needles help you achieve. 

For those with RA, acupuncture appears to: 

  • Lower various chemicals in the body that lead to inflammation
  • Ease emotional issues the disease can cause, such as depression and anxiety
  • Increase blood flow to the treatment areas, bringing more nutrients and oxygen

In turn, those extra nutrients and oxygen help make cartilage and other tissues healthier and stronger. 

Heat and Cold: Alternating Temperatures for Relief

Heat and cold are both helpful in easing the pain that RA can cause. Heat can increase blood flow to the treatment area, helping to relax muscles while easing joint pain. It is often particularly helpful to use heat in the morning, right before you start your daily activities. 

You can choose for your heat therapy to be moist or dry. Some options include:

  • Heat pads
  • Dry saunas
  • Steam saunas
  • Warm and damp compresses
  • Hot shower or bath
  • A hot wax (paraffin) bath if you have pain in your hands or feet 

You always want to ensure that neither the baths nor compresses are too hot since you don’t want to damage your skin. 

Cold therapy is also helpful, especially when dealing with acute pain and flare-ups. This therapy can constrict blood flow to the joints, which helps reduce inflammation while also slowing down the pain signals your joints send to your brain. It can reduce the accumulation of fluids in the joints as well. 

Cold therapy is simple; there are many cold packs available, or you can make your own. Limit cold therapy to about 20 minutes a few times a day. 

Turmeric: Adding the Spice to Your Diet

Turmeric is a spice belonging to the ginger family. It’s originally from Indonesia and India and features prominently in traditional medicine from those regions. 

The curcumin in the spice can block proteins that cause inflammation and can work as well as NSAIDs at easing pain. Curcumin is able to help ease symptoms of immune diseases like RA as well as inflammatory bowel disease. It can help decrease morning stiffness and joint swelling. 

If you’d like to try turmeric for RA, you can find it in supplements, teas, and the spice itself.

Capsaicin Gels and Creams: Harnessing the Chili Pepper’s Heat

Gels and creams made from capsaicin — the reason chili peppers are hot — can also help relieve RA pain. 

When you apply it to your skin, this chemical creates a tingling or mild burning sensation. It works by reducing substance P, which plays a role in sending pain signals to the brain. This substance is also involved in activating inflammatory reactions in your joints. 

Don’t use capsaicin substances with heat pads since doing so can increase the burning sensation to a painful level. Instead, you should use these gels by applying them to the affected area two to three times a day. 

Deep Breathing: Achieving Relaxation Through Breath

When you start taking deep and steady breaths, it triggers a relaxation response throughout your body that not only relaxes your muscles but also deactivates your stress receptors. As you breathe deeply, you’re also getting more oxygen into your muscles, helping with relaxation. 

One way to do deep breathing is to take a slow and steady breath through your nose while keeping your mouth closed. Doing a few of these throughout the day can make a difference. 

Massage Therapy: Easing Pain Out of the Muscles

Massage therapy has the potential to relieve stress and release the tension that RA can cause. It can improve circulation, allowing more oxygen to flow throughout your body and helping to reduce inflammation. Having less tension in your muscles encourages you to stay active, which can help alleviate RA symptoms. 

With the many types of massage therapies out there, you can choose the one that you feel most comfortable with. If you have any skin irritations or find that certain essential oils make your RA symptoms worse, let the massage therapist know so they can avoid them. 

Regenerative Medicine: Using Stem Cells

Stem cell therapy is an alternative option involving stem cells to repair, replace, or regenerate damaged cells and tissues in the body. 

It involves using stem cells, often derived from the patient’s own body (autologous stem cells) to reduce inflammation, improve joint function, and help repair tissue damage associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Getting Help for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a complex condition. However, by turning to medications as well as natural remedies, you can get the relief you need. You don’t have to go through daily discomfort when there are options available.

Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Based Therapy For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Based Therapy For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have demonstrated the ability to differentiate into a number of different cells; they also demonstrate immunomodulatory properties that have great potential for use as a stem cell-based therapeutic treatment option and for the treatment of autoimmune diseases – including rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

RA is a chronic and debilitating inflammatory disorder that not only affects the joints, muscles, and tendons, but also damages a number of other body systems, including the eyes, skin, lungs, heart, and blood vessels[1]. It is estimated that roughly 1.5 million Americans are afflicted by RA.  While the exact cause of RA is not yet fully understood, the condition is one of over 80 known autoimmune diseases occurring as a result of the immune system mistakenly attacking the body’s own healthy tissue.

Current treatment of RA primarily involves the use of steroids and antirheumatic drugs used primarily to manage associated symptoms of the condition, rather than treat the condition itself.  These drugs are also commonly associated with a number of unwanted side effects with users often developing resistance to the medication after prolonged use.

Considering the relative ineffectiveness of drugs designed to treat RA and RA-associated symptoms, scientists have turned to investigate the use of MSC-based therapy as a potential treatment for RA.

As part of this investigation, Sarsenova et al. examined both conventional and modern RA treatment approaches, including MSC-based therapy, by examining the connection between these stem cells and the innate and adaptive immune systems. This review also evaluates recent preclinical and clinical approaches to enhancing the immunoregulatory properties of MSCs.

Through a number of in vitro studies, researchers have realized that MSCs have the ability to inhibit the proliferation of effector memory T cells which, in turn, prevents the proliferation of inflammatory cytokine production. Additionally, these studies have also demonstrated that MSCs are able to modulate functions of the innate immune system by inducting the inflammatory process and activating the adaptive immune system.

Preclinical studies have demonstrated the ability of MSCs to suppress inflammation both through interactions with cells of the immune system and through paracrine mechanisms. This has been demonstrated to be very important as cells of the innate immune system have been shown to have an important role in both the development and progression of RA.

While a number of clinical studies evaluating the effectiveness of MSC-based therapies for the treatment of RA were still ongoing at the time of publication, the nine completed studies primarily demonstrated that using MSCs for the treatment of RA is safe, well tolerated in both the short and long-term, and provides clinical improvements in RA patients.

Despite the many positive and promising outcomes observed through these clinical trials, the authors of this review also point out some limitations associated with the treatment of RA with MSCs. These limitations include many of the referenced studies lacking a placebo control, low enrollment in some studies, and a lack of optimal protocol (for both MSC sourcing and route of administration) for RA treatment with MSCs.  

Considering these limitations, Sarsenova et al. point out the need for more well-defined and effective therapeutic windows for the treatment of RA with MSCs, including MSC priming to promote an anti-inflammatory phenotype, in a future study as a way to better understand the perceived benefits of a stem-cell therapy for the treatment of RA and other autoimmune diseases.

Source: “Mesenchymal Stem Cell-Based Therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis.” 27 Oct. 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8584240/.

[1] “Rheumatoid arthritis – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic.” 18 May. 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648. Accessed 5 Oct. 2022.

Six Essential Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis Remission

Six Essential Facts About Rheumatoid Arthritis Remission

The chronic inflammatory disorder rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects the joint lining, causing painful swelling. Since there is not yet a permanent cure for the condition, the treatment goal is to put a patient’s RA into remission, where the symptoms are well controlled.

RA remission is more complicated than it seems, and there are many vital facts to know if you have RA.

1. Remission Doesn’t Mean “Without Symptoms”

The Arthritis Foundation defines remission as having limited symptoms of the condition. Since this definition can be subjective, researchers have developed criteria to use in clinical trials. These remission criteria include:

  • Only one or fewer swollen joints
  • Only one or fewer tender joints
  • The patient assesses arthritis activity as a one or less on a 0–10 scale
  • A blood test evaluating inflammation shows little to no inflammation

If any of these criteria aren’t met, a patient is not in remission.

2. Remission Can Last for Any Length of Time

Some patients with RA experience remission for a few weeks, and others for a year or longer. There is no guarantee that remission will last for a specific duration.

3. Early Treatment Increases Odds of Remission

While RA symptoms need to persist for six weeks for a doctor to diagnose the condition, the sooner the inflammation is controlled, the better your chances of achieving remission. Since inflammation from RA can cause long-term changes in the joints, patients need aggressive treatment to get the condition under control. 

4. Following Your Treatment Plan Is Essential

Staying active, eating healthy, taking your medication as prescribed, and maintaining your scheduled doctor’s appointments to evaluate your health and adjust any dosages as needed is the best way to achieve remission.

5. Tapering Medication Requires Your Doctor

While some patients may be able to cut back on their medication while their RA is in remission, for others, that will cause a relapse. Medication adjustments require your doctor’s guidance to maintain control over your symptoms. 

6. Relapses Are Unavoidable

Unfortunately, almost all patients who go into RA remission experience a relapse at some point. If you’ve experienced a flare-up after remission, schedule an appointment with your physician immediately so you can make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.

Therapeutic potential of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Therapeutic potential of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorder that causes your immune system to mistakenly attack its own tissue and specifically affects the lining of the joints, resulting in painful swelling, bone erosion, and eventually permanent joint deformity.  

With an estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. living with RA, the disease affects nearly three times as many women as men.  In addition to affecting the synovial joints and causing articular destruction and functional disability, an estimated 40% of those diagnosed with RA experience additional signs and symptoms that do not involve the joints; these affected areas often include most body systems and specifically the skin, eyes, lungs, nerves, heart, and blood vessels.

Multiple studies have demonstrated that bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells could be effective for treating a number of autoimmune diseases, including RA. However, little is known about the effectiveness of umbilical cord (UC)-MSCs as they relate to the treatment of autoimmune diseases, specifically RA.  

Considering this, it comes as little surprise to learn that bone marrow MSCs (BM-MSCs) have been the most common source of MSCs used in the study of immunosuppression of autoimmune conditions. However, the collection of BM-MSCs requires aspiration, which is an invasive procedure. Additionally, the number of BM-MSCs and the differentiating potential of BM-MSCs both decrease significantly with age.

UC-MSCs, on the other hand, are collected using non-invasive procedures after birth and before the umbilical cord is discarded. Additionally, UC-MSCs have been well documented to possess properties of self-renewal and multipotent differentiation, making them a potential candidate for alternative sources of stem cells.

In this study, Liu et al. examined the suppressive effects of UC-MCSs on the proliferation, invasive behavior, and inflammatory responses of fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs) from patients with RA. 

At the conclusion of this study, the authors offered a number of key findings about the effectiveness of UC-MSCs in this application, including:

  • US-MSCs inhibited proliferation of FLSs from RA patients
  • US-MSCs suppressed the invasive behavior and MMP expression of FLSs from RA patients
  • US-MSCs suppressed the inflammatory response of FLSs from RA patients
  • UC-MSCs induced hyporesponsiveness of T lymphocytes from RA patients
  • UC-MSCs induced Tregs from RA patients
  • UC-MSCs prevented tissue damage and reduced inflammatory responses in CIA

The authors conclude by indicating the evidence provided by this study indicates that UC-MSCS can exert a profound inhibitory effect on FLSs and T cells from RA patients and that they might be a therapeutic perspective in RA. Source: “Therapeutic potential of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem ….” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21080925/.

How to Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Morning Stiffness and Start Your Day Off Right

How to Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Morning Stiffness and Start Your Day Off Right

Do you suffer from aches and pains due to rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? The stiffness caused by RA is a nuisance for many patients and it is especially prevalent in the morning. When you awake from even the most comfortable of sleep, your joints may feel painful and stiff for several hours. How can this be avoided?

4 Ways to Reduce Morning Stiffness for RA Patients

Most patients turn to over-the-counter pain medications to ease their RA morning stiffness, but there may be some other alternatives. The following are four ways to reduce rheumatoid arthritis stiffness and start your day off right.

1. Turn Up the Heat

Experts suggest turning your heat up about 30 minutes before you plan to start your day. This will allow time for your joints to warm up and feel less stiff while you take it easy and relax in bed or have your morning coffee. By the time you need to get ready and head out the door, your body will feel more relaxed, and stiffness may be decreased.

2. Take Medication as Soon as You Wake Up

While you’re turning up the heat, go ahead and take any of your rheumatoid arthritis medications. You want to give your medication time to kick in and take effect before you begin your morning routine. This will help ease most of the aches and pains that you may feel in your joints during morning activities.

3. Practice Gentle Movements

Once you are ready to get out of bed, practice gentle movements rather than jumping to your feet and rushing around the house. Simple range-of-motion exercises can help stretch your muscles and loosen joints in the hands, wrists, and feet.

4. Take A Hot Shower

While many people opt for nighttime showers, RA patients may benefit from taking a hot morning shower. Taking a warm shower upon waking in the morning will help loosen and relax the joints, decreasing any stiffness or aching.

If you suffer from chronic pain from your rheumatoid arthritis, you may want to explore how regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, may help manage symptoms. In addition, some patients are discovering help from peptides. These are chains of amino acids, and some may have the potential for those with chronic pain. Alternative medicine does not offer a cure, but for some, it may help improve quality of life.

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