Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases are a broad category that effects a significant population in both the United States and abroad. It occurs when the immune system starts attacking healthy tissue leading to its death. Most autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions with treatments focused on either limiting the damage to healthy tissues and/or restraining the immune system.

The body’s immune system is designed to recognize foreign and/or harmful substance. Once labeled as foreign, the immune system will attack and destroy it. Occasionally, however, the immune system views healthy tissue as foreign, which leads to an immune response and tissue death. This process not only leads to the death of the healthy tissue but also generates an inflammatory response and can lead to the abnormal growth or function of an organ.

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common autoimmune diseases and typically affects the lining of small joints in your hands and feet. These joints become inflamed leading to the destruction or deformation of the joints. As with many autoimmune diseases treatment is focused on controlling the symptoms and limiting joint damage. These treatments, however, often work by broadly dampening the immune system, which limits the autoimmunity but also decreases the immune system’s ability to fight infections.

Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP) is another autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks platelets. This leads to excessive bleeding as the blood has a decreased capacity to properly clot. This can manifest itself as purple bruises (purpura), which appear on the skin or mucous membranes and are caused by bleeding from small blood vessels under the skin. In addition, ITP patients can have bleeding from the gums, noses, or other organs or develop hematomas. There are no disease modifying treatments and patients are usually treated with steroids.