Four ques­tions, an­swered.

Men's Health (South Africa) - - HEALTH -

1/ What are auto-im­mune dis­eases?

Sim­ply put, an auto-im­mune dis­ease de­vel­ops when your im­mune sys­tem de­cides to at­tack healthy cells, mis­tak­ing them for threat­en­ing for­eign cells. De­pend­ing on the dis­ease, dif­fer­ent or­gans and tis­sues may be af­fected. In the case of au­toim­mune arthri­tis, your joints be­come in­flamed and sore.

2/ What causes them?

There are many the­o­ries about what might trig­ger auto-im­mune dis­ease. It could be any­thing from bac­te­ria or viruses to drugs or chem­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tants. How you are af­fected usu­ally boils down to your ge­net­ics. Cer­tain peo­ple may have a pre­dis­po­si­tion to de­vel­op­ing a par­tic­u­lar auto-im­mune dis­ease.

3/ How do you know if you have one?

Blood tests can in­di­cate how much in­flam­ma­tion is in your body, and what an­ti­bod­ies are present. A full blood count will show if your im­mune sys­tem is fight­ing some­thing.

4/ How do you treat them?

Drugs to treat auto-im­mune dis­ease in­clude anti-in­flam­ma­to­ries, painkillers, im­muno­sup­pres­sive medicine and hor­mone re­place­ment ther­apy. Blood trans­fu­sions may be nec­es­sary, and phys­i­cal ther­apy can help. Giv­ing up smok­ing, rest­ing more, eat­ing healthily, ex­er­cis­ing and de­creas­ing stress can also al­le­vi­ate symp­toms.

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