Alarming facts behind autoimmune diseases

March 3, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It's time to take control of your health. Nurse practitioner Barbara Dehn, who has an online health blog called, has information on the alarming facts behind autoimmune diseases.

Autoimmune Disorders
By Nurse Barb

We don't know why, but more women than men seem to be more affected by autoimmune disorders and diseases. These can include a long list of conditions that are difficult to diagnose and treat effectively.

What are autoimmune disorders?

These occur, when a person's own immune cells get mixed up with their job description. Instead of working as a team with the other cells and protecting organs and tissues from invaders, these immune cells "turn against" the tissues and actually attack, wreaking havoc and causing lots of annoying symptoms. This leads to the body producing antibodies, (they're like rogue agents) who don't recognize that they're attacking their own team.

How it happens

We don't know precisely what triggers a person's body to suddenly attack their own tissue. These tend to occur when there's a family history, so there's probably a genetic link. There's a wide range of how mild or severe the symptoms might be from one family member to another.

Some common autoimmune disorders

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
  • Scleroderma
  • Raynaud's Phenomenon
  • Celiac Disease
  • Chron's disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Sjogren's syndrome
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica
  • Temporal Arteritis
  • Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

These may also be autoimmune disorders

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Fibromyalgia

Hard to diagnose

For many of these, there aren't good, conclusive lab tests, which can leave many people visiting multiple health care providers searching for answers.

The emotional aspect

When doctors can't give conclusive answers, and don't know what's wrong, they may attribute the person's symptoms to emotional issues or depression. This can actually make a person with very real symptoms of an auto-immune disorder feel depressed or unsure about themselves. They know it's not all in their heads, but find it difficult to get the answers they need and treatments that work.

Why it's difficult to treat

So far, we can only treat the symptoms, there are no cures, but there are promising treatments being studied. For many people, it's symptom relief and avoidance of triggers that worsen symptoms.


The American Autoimmune Related Disorders Association

About Nurse Barb Dehn:
Barb Dehn is a practicing Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, award winning author, and a nationally recognized health expert. She holds a BS from Boston College and earned Masters degree at the University of California, San Francisco. An in demand and popular national speaker on all aspects of women's health, she also lectures at Stanford and is a frequent health expert on NBC's iVillageLive and recently In the Loop with iVillage.

Follow Nurse Barba at the commercial-free daily health blog