Health A-Z

What are Autoimmune Diseases?

What are Autoimmune Diseases?


You need a healthy immune system to defend your body from infections and diseases. Your immune system can malfunction and attack your organs, tissues, and healthy cells; this is known as autoimmune disease. It can affect any body part, weakening bodily functions, and can even be life-threatening. There are more than 80 known autoimmune diseases. Some are rare and difficult to diagnose while others are well known like lupus and type 1 diabetes (which is prevalent in the UAE). Sometimes you might suffer many years until a proper diagnosis is made. Most autoimmune diseases have no cure and some require life-long treatment to help you deal with the symptoms.

Cause of Autoimmune Diseases

Scientists are not sure what causes autoimmune diseases, but it is believed that a combination of various factors like genes and your environment plays a role.

Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases

Most autoimmune diseases are associated with inflammation, which causes redness, swelling, pain, and heat. Most autoimmune diseases attack more than 1 body part and the symptoms depend on the body part affected. They include;

·       Skin – Rashes, color changes, and blisters

·       Thyroid – Weight gain, exhaustion, or muscle aches

·       Joints – Joint pain, loss of function, and stiffness.

Common Autoimmune Diseases


Although there are more than 80 known autoimmune diseases, the following are the most prevalent;

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation, joint pain, and damage all over your body. It causes joint damage on both sides of your body; this means that if a joint is affected in your right leg, the same joint in your left leg is probably damaged. It is vital to consult specialists like the best general practitioners Dubai centers instead of self-diagnosing because rheumatoid arthritis is different from osteoarthritis and other forms of arthritis.

Treatment is more effective when done in the early stages. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include inflammation and joint pain. These symptoms escalate during exacerbations or flares.

They can also disappear completely during remission. Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the joints in your wrists, hands, and knees; it can also affect organs and tissues throughout your body including the eyes, heart, and lungs. Symptoms can be mild or severe and it is advisable to seek medical help even if they come and go.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition where the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are ineffective, which means your body cannot make insulin. Without insulin, your body cannot use glucose for energy. Glucose comes from the food you consume and insulin helps the glucose to flow from your blood into your body cells.

When there is enough insulin in your cells, your muscle tissues and liver store the extra in the form of glycogen. Your body breaks down this glycogen into blood sugar when you need energy while exercising, eating, or sleeping. Type 1 diabetes occurs when your body cannot process glucose because there is no insulin.

This means glucose from the food you consume cannot reach the cells; this causes too much glucose in your blood. Having high blood sugar levels can cause short and long-term problems. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include fatigue, excessive hunger, frequent urination, excessive thirst, dramatic weight loss within a short period, and blurred vision.

Psoriasis/Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes a rapid build-up of skin cells; this build-up causes skin flaking. If you have psoriasis, you will notice redness around the area where scaling occurs. Psoriasis scales are whitish-silver and grow in red, thick patches. On dark skin tones, they can be purplish, dark brown with gray scales.

Sometimes the patches break and bleed. Skin cells grow deep in your skin and gradually rise to the skin. Psoriasis happens when this process speeds up. Your skin cells’ lifecycle is a month, but if you have psoriasis, skin cell production occurs within a few days.

This does not allow adequate time for your skin cells to fall off which leads to skin cell build-up. Psoriasis scales grow on joints like knees and elbows. However, they can develop on the face, scalp, hands, neck, and feet.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Lupus is used to describe several immune conditions that have similar clinical presentations and laboratory features. However, SLE is the most prevalent type of lupus. People usually mean SLE when they talk about lupus.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is a chronic condition that has alternating phases of mild and severe symptoms. Many cases of SLE go undiagnosed, but if you have the condition, you can live a healthy life through treatment. Symptoms can change and vary with time but the most common include;

·       Joint pain

·       Severe fatigue

·       Headaches

·       Joint swelling

·       Butterfly rash

·       Anemia

·       Hair loss

·       Fingers tingling when cold or turning blue or white

·       Blood clotting problems.

Lupus is tricky to diagnose because these symptoms are also present in other diseases.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition that attacks the myelin sheath the protective layer that covers the nerve cells in the central nervous system. It causes temporary lesions and inflammation but it can also cause long-lasting lesions from scar tissue which makes it challenging for your brain to transmit signals to the rest of your body. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary from individual to individual. They can also vary in severity from day to day, week to week, or month to month.

Common symptoms include;

·       Fatigue

·       Difficulty walking

·       Speech issues

·       Vision problems.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes a group of intestinal conditions that cause long-term inflammation of the digestive tract. If inflammation occurs in any part of your digestive tract, it hinders normal functioning. Inflammatory bowel disease can be painful and disruptive and in rare cases life-threatening. Symptoms depend on the location and intensity of inflammation. Common symptoms include bleeding ulcers, diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating, cramping, anemia, or weight loss.


There are more than 80 known autoimmune diseases and their overlapping symptoms make them challenging to diagnose. Although they can be life-threatening, you can manage autoimmune diseases through proper treatment. If you are concerned about autoimmune disease and proper healthcare consult experts like the best general practitioners Dubai facility.


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