Alternate Names : Autoimmune Conditions
What are the treatments for the condition?
The goal of treatment in autoimmune disorders is to reduce symptoms and prevent
damage to the organs in the body. This is done by controlling the immune system
and the inflammation that it causes. Many of the medications used to treat
autoimmune disorders suppress the immune system. That is, they keep the immune
system from attacking the body. However, this also reduces the body's ability
to fight off infections.
Treatments to reduce symptoms may include:
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin or
ibuprofen, to relieve
joint pain, and muscle
corticosteroids, or steroids, help reduce inflammation. These
medications are often used on a short-term basis to get a person through a
sudden episode or flare-up.
medications to suppress the immune system, such as methotrexate,
azathioprine, and cyclophosphamide, which help to reduce inflammation and organ
In some cases, other treatments may be needed. For example, surgery may be
needed for blockage of the bowels, which may occur in Crohn's disease. Blood transfusions
may be needed in severe cases of autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Insulin is given
to individuals with type 1
diabetes to control blood glucose levels.
Many research studies are currently under way to
develop or test treatments for autoimmune disorders. These studies include:
examining the role of interferon in selected disorders. Beta interferon,
example, has been approved for the treatment of multiple sclerosis and is being tested in other
autoimmune disorders as well.
studying the use of stem cells, which are a type of cell that can grow into
different cell types
using new antibodies to modify the way T cells encourage the body to attack
its own tissues
Although autoimmune disorders cannot be cured, there are steps an individual
can take to improve his or her quality of life. These steps include the
understanding and following the treatment plan developed in conjunction
with the healthcare provider
avoiding, whenever feasible, triggers such as sunlight or viral
identifying stressors and using
stress-management techniques to lower his or her stress level
balancing the need for activity, rest, and sleep
eating a healthy diet, as recommended by the healthcare provider. If no
special diet is recommended, individuals should follow the food guide pyramid.
joining a support group for a specific disorder, such as chronic fatigue syndrome
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Medications used to treat autoimmune disorders have many side
effects. The side effects include:
stomach upset, stomach bleeding, headaches,
and a decrease in kidney function caused by NSAIDs
weight gain, high blood pressure,
bruising, bone loss known as osteoporosis, increased blood
glucose, an increased risk of infection, and muscle weakness,
which may be caused by corticosteroids
an increased risk of infection, stomach upset, and liver or kidney
damage which may be caused by medications that suppress the immune system
Surgery carries a risk of bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to anesthesia.
transfusions carry a risk of allergic reactions and infections.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
Autoimmune disorders are often long-term diseases with symptoms that can come
and go over time. The outcome varies with each disorder. Many can be controlled
with treatment. A person may need treatment for the rest of his or her life.
Specific treatments are often related to the body damage that occurs.
How is the condition monitored?
A person with an autoimmune disorder should have frequent physical exams. This
helps the healthcare provider monitor the disorder and watch for complications.
Frequent blood tests may help monitor the disorder as well. Any new or
worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.