Vim & Vigor - Fall 2013 - Gwinnett Medical Center - (Page 42)

ATTACK FROM WITHIN When you’re forced to sit next to a coughing seat mate at 30,000 feet, your immune system is your trustworthy travel companion. When a nasty stomach flu is making its way around the office, your immune system is on the job. It’s your body’s very own defense system against germs and diseases, and it never takes a day off. But for those with an autoimmune disease, the immune system takes things a step too far. “It’s like friendly fire,” says Michael Lockshin, MD, a rheumatologist, professor and former editor-in-chief of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism. “The immune system starts attacking the body and doesn’t recognize what’s normal.” In other words, it attacks healthy cells. And it knows no boundaries, meaning almost any part of the body can be affected—from your brain to your bladder—depending on the type of autoimmune disease. More than 80 known types are divided into two broad categories: those that attack multiple organs (such as lupus) and those that attack only one (such as inflammatory bowel disease). To make things even more complicated, autoimmune diseases often have similar symptoms, such as fatigue, joint pain and fever, so it can take multiple tests and exams to pinpoint the exact cause. Also, there is somewhat of a cycle to autoimmune diseases. When symptoms are at their worst, it is called a flare-up. And when they retreat, it’s a remission. Flare-ups can come and go within days or weeks, and a remission period can last a year or more. While the exact cause of autoimmune diseases is unknown, there are certain risk factors, including family history. Women, especially those in their childbearing years, and minorities are at higher risk than the general population. In fact, 78 percent of people affected by autoimmune diseases are women. Here, we explore four common types of autoimmune diseases, including symptoms and treatment options. BY COLLEEN RINGER 42 FA L L 2 013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Fall 2013 - Gwinnett Medical Center

Vim & Vigor - Fall 2013 - Gwinnett Medical Center
Phil’s Feature
Kind and Generous
How Can We Help?
Step It Up
Your Mightiest Muscle
Well, Well, Well
Are You Doing More Harm Than Good?
Is Your Shut-Eye Serving You Well?
Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge
Anatomy of an ER Visit
Next-Gen Surgery
Attack from Within
Virtual Health
PrimeTime Health
Clear Passage
New Life with New Knees
Out of the White Coat
Transforming Healthcare

Vim & Vigor - Fall 2013 - Gwinnett Medical Center