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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Autoimmune Disorders: Treatment & Monitoring
      Category : Health Centers > Immune System

Autoimmune Disorders

Alternate Names : Autoimmune Conditions

Autoimmune Disorders | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

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 fever, joint pain, and muscle aches
  • 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 damage
  • 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, for 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 following:

  • understanding and following the treatment plan developed in conjunction with the healthcare provider
  • avoiding, whenever feasible, triggers such as sunlight or viral infections
  • 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, acne, easy 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. Blood 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.

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    Autoimmune Disorders: Prevention & Expectations


    Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 08/28/01

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