Autoimmune diseases are a category of conditions where an individual's immune system acts abnormally, often attacking and destroying healthy tissues by mistake. Many triggers can cause an individual's body to start making components referred to as antibodies. Usually, antibodies help the body fight off infections. However, in patients with an autoimmune disease, they attack the body's healthy tissues instead. Diagnoses are made using physical examination, thorough medical history, blood tests, urine tests, and tissue biopsies.
Treatment for autoimmune diseases varies based on the specific condition. For instance, rheumatoid arthritis treatment often includes anti-inflammatory medication for pain relief. Corticosteroids for arthritis are also common, and some patients may need surgery for rheumatoid arthritis. Most patients need a special gluten-free diet for celiac disease. In addition, individuals will need an insulin pen or other types of insulin syringes as part of their type 1 diabetes treatment. Ultimately, patients must first understand what autoimmune disease they have to obtain the best treatment possible.
Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by the production of antibodies in the immune system that inappropriately attack the synovial membrane and synovial fluid in the joints. The synovium is a group of structures that sit between where two or more bones meet at a mobile joint. Its function is to keep the area lubricated and cushioned. This ensures that friction and normal use do not damage the cartilage and bone.
When an individual's immune system produces antibodies that attack these synovial tissues, the joint becomes swollen, inflamed, and stiff. This will be painful. Rheumatoid arthritis affects an individual's smaller joints first, such as those that attach the toes to the feet and fingers to the hands. It progresses and will eventually affect the knees, wrists, ankles, hips, shoulders, and elbows. Imaging tests can help diagnose and evaluate the progress of rheumatoid arthritis. Examples of helpful imaging tests are magnetic resonance imaging, x-rays, and ultrasounds.