Autoimmune disease: cause, symptoms and treatment – the difference to an allergy

A doctor measures a patient's blood pressure (symbol image)

An autoimmune disease can cause symptoms similar to those of an allergy. In contrast to allergies, however, the immune system is directed against the body’s own substances and reacts with dangerous inflammatory reactions.

Keel- Normally, the Immune system the body from foreign substances and pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites by initiating a defense reaction upon contact. In one autoimmune disease the immune system recognizes the body’s own substances The gluten is perceived as foreign and reacts with an excessive immune response. This leads to inflammatory reactions that can severely damage the tissue. According to estimates, about five to eight percent of all people from one of the almost 100 different autoimmune diseases affected. The symptoms of autoimmune diseases can resemble those of a Allergy ähneln. However, the cause of allergic symptoms is a pathogenic overreaction to actually harmless exogenous proteins (allergens).

Autoimmune disease: causes and development

The mechanisms involved in Autoimmune diseases to an disturbed tolerance of the Immune system The causes of autoimmune diseases, which lead to a reaction to the body’s own substances, have not been conclusively clarified scientifically. It is assumed that several factors are involved in the Emergence from Autoimmune diseases play a role. Thus, on the one hand genetic factors, on the other hand, various triggering factors such as infections, pregnancies, stress or also certain Medication as Cause of the disease in question. Likewise, there are, similar to Allergies, the assumption that excessive hygiene in western industrialized nations makes the immune system more susceptible to malfunctions due to “lack of training.

In some Autoimmune diseases are individual organs affected, for example the thyroid in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or nerve cells in multiple sclerosis (organ-specific autoimmune disease). In others tissue structures in the whole body affected, such as the skin in psoriasis or the connective tissue in joints and tendons in rheumatoid arthritis. These forms of autoimmune disease are called systemic autoimmune diseases described. Women are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases than men. In addition, older people are affected more often than younger people.

Autoimmune disease: Celiac disease and other common diseases

A known Autoimmune disease is the Celiac disease. This is often mistakenly assigned to the Allergies Assigned to. In celiac disease, the gluten protein triggers inflammation in the small intestine. In this case, the immune system attacks the body’s own proteins in the mucosa of the small intestine and forms IgA antibodies. The antibodies destroy the villi (folds) of the intestinal mucosa, reducing its surface area. As a result, nutrients can no longer be absorbed properly and malnutrition is imminent. Not to be confused with the Celiac disease with the gluten intolerance or a Wheat allergy. While in gluten intolerance the immune system is not involved, in wheat allergy it forms IgE antibodies against components of wheat.

In addition to celiac disease, there are almost a hundred different known autoimmune diseases. The most common are listed in the following list:

  • multiple sclerosis
  • Diabetes mellitus type 1
  • ulcerative colitis
  • Pemphigus vulgaris
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Graves’ disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Lupus erythematosus (reactions against numerous organs)
  • Polymyositis (inflammation of the muscles)
  • Scleroderma (hardening of the connective tissue of the skin, vessels and internal organs)
  • Systemic vasculitides (inflammation of the blood vessels)
  • Anti-phospholipid syndrome (disorder in blood clotting)

An overview of all Autoimmune diseases and detailed information on the respective clinical pictures is offered by the German Society for autoimmune diseases (DGfAE) in Kiel.

Autoimmune disease: symptoms and diagnosis

Which symptoms in the case of Autoimmune disease The type of autoimmune disease that occurs depends largely on the disease and the organs affected. Since a wide variety of complaints can occur, the Diagnosis often only diagnosed after other diseases have been ruled out and after a long period of suffering. For the Diagnosis the doctor will first examine the patient in the Medical history Ask in detail about the medical history. Possible further Diagnosis differ depending on the symptoms and range from arthroscopies, biopsies, blood tests, colonoscopies, joint punctures, lung function tests, neurological examinations, stool tests and hemoccult tests. At Systemic autoimmune diseases the detection of so-called antinuclear antibody (ANA) Indications of an Autoimmune disease give. These are autoantibodies (AAK) against components of the cell nuclei.

In rare cases, existing immune cells may be destroyed by an chemotherapy destroyed and the immune system is then replaced by a Stem cell transplantation re “built. This form of treatment of a Autoimmune Disease However, this involves enormous risks and is rarely carried out. An important step in treatment is also to avoid triggers of the disease (such as severe stress) as much as possible.

This article contains only general information on the respective health topic and is not intended for self-diagnosis, self-treatment or self-medication. It does not in any way replace a visit to the doctor. Unfortunately, our editors are not allowed to answer individual questions about disease patterns.

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