The 6 main types of autoimmune diseases
We are not aware of how many dangers surround us every day. Maybe that's why the immune system performs a job that is not appreciated until the day it fails.
In this article we will review above the main types of autoimmune diseases and the way in which they affect us. But first, let's start with the simplest.
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What is the immune system?
The immune system is a group of cells coordinated with each other They specialize in protecting the body from external agents that could cause health deterioration, such as infections or diseases. Like everything, it is not perfect, and some of these agents manage to penetrate the defense and cause discomfort, infections, etc.
The problems are exacerbated when it is the immune system itself that does not work properly. There are different failures of this system, such as the absence of response (immunodeficiency), an exaggerated response (hypersensitivity) or that attacks the body itself (autoimmune diseases). In this article I will focus on this last group.
Autoimmune diseases have in common the loss of immune tolerance, that is, that they detect antigens (substances that are detected by the immune system and make it activate) own body. Tolerance is a series of mechanisms that exist to avoid this; For example, if a lymphocyte (cell of the immune system) is activated with its own antigen at the time it is generated in the producing organ (spleen and thymus), the organ itself is responsible for eliminating this cell so that it does not damage the body.
The immune system makes use of antibodies , molecules that bind to the aforementioned antigens, to signal the rest of the immune cells that attack them. The loss of tolerance is detected by the presence in the organism of autoantibodies (antibodies that signal as normal antigens elements of the organism) and autoreactive T lymphocytes (lymphocytes that recognize own antigens), which for some reason have not been eliminated.
Main types of autoimmune diseases
Today, up to 80 types of autoimmune diseases are known, some with higher prevalence than others. Many of them present similar symptoms (such as inflammation), which makes the task of diagnosis difficult. Commonly, they are classified as complex diseases, since there is more than one factor to trigger the problem, such as hormonal, genetic or environmental components .
I will not devote myself to explaining all the existing autoimmune diseases, but I will talk about the most recognized to expose different cases.
1. Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (DM1)
Diabetes is one of the metabolic alterations that most affect humans . As early as 2015, 400 million cases had been diagnosed throughout the world. There are different types of diabetes mellitus, one of them being of autoimmune origin. I speak of diabetes mellitus type 1, which translates into 5% of cases that are diagnosed.
The onset of DM1 usually occurs in adolescence, and what happens is that the immune system eliminates the cells of the islets of Langerhans from the pancreas , who are responsible for the manufacture of the hormone insulin, causing the onset of diabetes due to the lack of it.
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2. Multiple sclerosis
It is a type of demyelinating chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. In this case, the cells of the immune system, lymphocytes and macrophages, destroy the myelin covering the nerve fibers, which has an important function in maintaining the nerve impulse. Without her, the neuron is unable to send correctly information.
It is one of the diseases that affects the most common nervous system in the world (2.5 million cases diagnosed in the world), and its symptoms are signs of failures in the transmission of information, such as fatigue, lack of balance, sight alterations and talk and tremors.
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3. Rheumatoid arthritis
This type of autoimmune disease affects the joints, place that the immune system destroys progressively. It has a high prevalence (between 0.5 to 1% of the world population), with a higher frequency in women.
Rheumatoid arthritis causes pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints , events caused by the attack of immune cells to this tissue. The exact causes of the disease are unknown, although they have found hormonal, environmental and genetic components.
4. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
SLE or simply lupus, is one of the autoimmune diseases with the highest prevalence.In Spain it is estimated that 9 out of every 10,000 inhabitants suffers from it. It is a systematic disease, in other words, The whole body is attacked by the immune system . This is due to the fact that autoantibodies are generated against nucleic antigens (ANA), that is, they target elements of the nucleus of the cell, such as DNA or histones.
Lupus is a type of autoimmune disease that has very characteristic symptoms, such as redness in the form of a butterfly on the face, photosensitivity or renal failure. The latter May lead to patient death .
The reasons that triggers the disease are not known, although there is a strong genetic influence. In addition, it has also been seen that it is more frequent in women, and more specifically, in certain ethnic groups. Afro-American and Hispanic women are at higher risk of suffering from the disease than Caucasian women.