Autoimmune Disorders: What You Need to Know
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Autoimmune Disorders: What You Need to Know

Get the most up-to-date information on rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that typically causes inflammation of the joints and the encompassing tissue. It can also affect other organs. The symptoms to look out for are joint pain, fatigue, increased muscle aches, weakness, loss of appetite, and prolonged morning stiffness. Further symptoms include skin inflammation or redness, low-grade fever, pleurisy (lung inflammation), anemia, hand and feet deformities, numbness or tingling, paleness, and eye burning, itching, and discharge. The disease can appear at any age, although research shows that women are more prone to the disease than men. Other factors such as infection, genes, and hormones can bring on RA. Smokers are at higher risk of developing the disease.

 
Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that breaks down the fatty substance that protects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Common symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, limb numbness or weakness on one side of the body, optic neuritis (loss of vision), double or blurry vision, unsteady balance or lack of coordination, tremors, tingling or pain in parts of the body, and bowel or bladder problems. The disease is more prevalent among 20- to 40-year-olds, although it can occur at any age. Women are more likely to be affected by MS than men.

 
Fibromyalgia

This chronic condition is distinguished by widespread body pain in your muscles and joints. Commonly, defined tender points in the joints, muscles, and tendons that cause shooting and radiating pain has been linked with fibromyalgia. Other symptoms include fatigue, irritable bowel symptoms, memory difficulties, palpitations, disturbed sleep, migraines, numbness, and body aches. In the United States around 2 percent of the population are affected by this condition. Women are more likely to develop this condition than men; it is most common among 20- to 50-year-olds. Fibromyalgia symptoms are often triggered by a physical or emotional trauma, but in many cases there is no identifiable cause of the disorder.

 
Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an inherited digestive condition in which the consumption of the protein gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. This protein is found in all forms of wheat and related grains rye, barley, and triticale. The disease can occur at any age. Among adults, the condition is sometimes manifested after surgery, viral infection, severe emotional stress, pregnancy, or childbirth. Children with the condition often display growth failure, vomiting, bloated abdomen, and behavioral changes. Symptoms vary and can include abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, unexplained weight loss or weight gain, unexplained anemia, bone or joint pain, fatigue, weakness, or lack of energy. The disorder is most common in Caucasians and those of European ancestry. Women are affected more commonly than men.

 
Ulcerative Colitis

This inflammatory bowel disease largely affects the large intestine and rectum and is characterized by abdominal pain and diarrhea. Other symptoms include joint pain, nausea and vomiting, weight loss, and gastrointestinal bleeding. Any age group can be affected but it is more prevalent amongst the ages 15 to 30 and 50 to 70. People with a family history of ulcerative colitis and those of Jewish ancestry are more at risk of contracting the disease. The disorder affects 10 to 15 out of 100,000 people.

 

Originally published on LHJ.com, February 2010.

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