Autoimmune diseases refer to the conditions where the body’s immune system attacks itself. Virtually, the body’s immune system protects the body against foreign invaders that cause diseases. Such foreign threats are bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
When the immune system detects these invaders, it sends antibodies to attack them. The immune system can tell foreign and own body cells apart.
In an autoimmune disease, the body’s defense system cannot differentiate between the two. Consequently, healthy, normal cells are attacked, and depending on the body cells affected, an autoimmune disease ensues.
There are several conditions considered as autoimmune diseases. The common ones are:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- Grave’s disease
What causes Autoimmune Disorders?
Unfortunately, the cause of autoimmune disease is unknown. This makes Autoimmune Health a field of interest for researchers. The only theory that attempts to explain is that people of particular ethnic backgrounds are susceptible to immune system mishaps.
Other theories blame an overactive immune system that mistakenly attacks body cells after an injury or infection while the body was defending itself.
However, certain there are risk factors that contribute to these autoimmune disorders, including:
Genetic- Some autoimmune diseases run in the family. If you have a relative managing any of these disorders, you are the risk. Lupus and multiple sclerosis (MS) are two such conditions that are genetically inherited.
Unhealthy weight gain-Being overweight puts one at risk of developing autoimmune diseases. Two autoimmune conditions associated with overweight are rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis.
When you are obese, you exert pressure on the joints. As such, the fat tissues coat blood vessels and ligaments, encouraging inflammation. Smoking- Lupus, hyperthyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis are linked with smoking habits.
Medications- Some antibiotics are believed to trigger lupus. Scientists also reveal that some particular medications for managing low cholesterol levels can potentially trigger statin-induced myopathy.
Myopathy is among the autoimmune disorders that cause muscle weakness. Therefore, it is always crucial to start and stop medications with the doctor’s advice.
Symptoms of autoimmune disorders include;
- Hair loss
- Lack of concentration
- Recurring fever
- Swollen glands
- Numbness in the hands and feet
- Swollen glands
- Abdominal pain and digestive issues
Some symptoms can be characteristic of a specific condition. This article will focus on psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis is a condition that affects people with psoriasis. Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) is characterized by red, itchy patches on the skin and scalp. Most people diagnosed with psoriasis later in life develop psoriatic arthritis.
Types of Psoriatic Arthritis
There are five forms of this condition, namely
- Symmetrical PsA
- Asymmetrical PsA
- Spondylitis PsA
- Psoriaticartritis mutilans
- Distal interphalangeal PsA
1. Symmetrical Psoriatic Arthritis
This type is characterized by joint pain that mimics rheumatoid arthritis. A patient may find both joints on the same limbs of the affected. For E.g. if the left hand has rashes, the left knee equally has the symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
2. Asymmetrical Psoriatic Arthritis
This type of PsA affects the joints on asymmetrical parts of the body. E.g one wrist may be affected while the other wrist is not. Asymmetrical PsA is less severe than symmetrical PsA because it does not affect more than five body joints.
It is crucial to note that asymmetrical PsA precedes symmetrical PsA. However, this is not always the case. Additionally, women are more susceptible to symmetrical PsA, while asymmetrical PsA IS common in men.
3. Distal interphalangeal predominant PsA
Psoriatic Arthritis precipitates distal interphalangeal predominant(DIP) where the small joints close to your toes nails, and fingers are most affected.
It is quite rare, but if not properly managed, it can be severe. The fingers become stiff and inflamed, making it difficult to perform the slightest of duties. Stiff, swollen toes, makes standing for a long time a painful ordeal.
The swelling on the fingers and toes may severely affect the entire part. It is also asymmetrical, meaning if all the joints in one foot are affected, the other foot may not.
Symptoms of DIP PsA are:
- Stiffness at the joints, especially after a long period of rest reduced range of even for slight movements
- pain and inflammation of the toes and fingers
- pain in the tendons and ligaments
- Change in the nails including detachments, discoloration crumbling, and tenderness
Managing Pain and Mobility in DIP PsA
Non-steroidal non-inflammatory drugs may be used to manage pain and stiffness at the joints, while corticosteroid injections are also used to reduce inflammation and the associated pain.
4. Spondylitis Psoriatic Arthritis
This term refers to PsA conditions that affect the spine and pelvic joints. Symptoms of spondylitis PsA include stiffness in the lower back and neck, pain, and inflammation.
Sacroiliac joints in the pelvis can also be affected. Mobility may be impaired as the condition worsens because the spine is adversely affected.
Symptoms of spondylitis PsA include:
- stiffness of the back and neck that gets better with movement stiffness that gets worse with sleep or much rest
- trouble moving the back or bending
The severity of this condition varies from one individual to another. And if this condition is not well managed, it can lead to long-term damage to the back and spine.
The medical intervention aims to prevent inflammation that may cause joint and spine damage. The medication also prevents the patient from risk of heart disease due to inflammation.
5. Psoriatic arthritis mutilans
Psoriatic arthritis mutilans affects the bone tissues of the hands to disappear. It is a rare form of PsA of arthritis and the most severe of the five types of PsA.
The symptoms of this autoimmune disorder are stiffness of joints and reduced range of motion. When one develops psoriatic arthritis mutilans, the bones of the affected join begin to disappear.
Therefore, making it difficult to straighten or bend the joint. If no treatment is given, the joint shorten and leaves loose skin to hang in the affected part.
Psoriatic arthritis mutilans is a progressive disorder. As such, the sooner it is diagnosed and treated, the more likely its progression can be controlled.
The treatment regimen includes a disease-modifying-anti-rheumatic agent and an anti-TNF inhibitor. The latter prevents psoriatic arthritis symptoms from getting worse and alters the body’s response to anti-inflammatory responses.