The most common autoimmune illnesses include rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Autoimmune illnesses typically affect more than 20 million people per year and are the most common reasons for people to file for disability. At-risk groups for autoimmune illness include people who have a family history of autoimmune illnesses, females who are of childbearing years and people who are exposed to solvents. Certain bacterial and viral infections have also been linked to the development of autoimmune illnesses. Autoimmune illnesses cause the body to attack its own immune system.
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common of autoimmune illnesses. The joints of the hands and feet are usually affected first, then the disease progresses to other areas of the body. Joint damage from this disease ranges from mild to severe and can include deformities of the hands that prevent their use. It causes chronic inflammation of the joints. Fever and fatigue are also common with rheumatoid arthritis.
Women develop rheumatoid arthritis two to three times more often than men develop it. Symptoms include joint pain, stiffness upon awakening, unexplained weight loss, severe fatigue, red hands and joints that are painful to touch. These symptoms or swelling of the joints should be evaluated by a physician. The diagnosis is made through blood tests, X-rays and a medical history.
The treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is medication. There are several medications available, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), steroids and disease-modifying drugs. The medications are designed to slow the disease progression and prevent further damage to the joints. Possible side effects include liver damage and lung infections that can become severe.
Lupus is another common autoimmune illness. Symptoms and severity vary widely in each case but can include mouth sores, fluctuations in weight, a butterfly rash across the face, hair loss and stiffness or swelling of joints. Depression and memory loss are also symptoms of lupus. There are four types of lupus, including a rare form that affects newborn babies. Some lupus cases are mild, rarely flaring up, and others are severe and systemic and can be life-threatening.
Increased risk for cancer, pregnancy complications, heart and circulatory issues and kidney problems are a few of many issues that lupus can cause. Testing for lupus is quite involved because of the many manifestations it has. Checking for kidney damage, fluid around the heart or lungs, blood tests and a visual inspection for the telltale butterfly rash are all possible diagnostic techniques. Treatment includes medication for the lupus itself as well as medication for individual symptoms caused by the disease.