There are many types of autoimmune diseases, more than 80. There are also many additional diseases which are thought to have autoimmune components. The symptoms of an autoimmune disease generally depend on which part of the body is affected. Some autoimmune disorders target specific types of tissue (e.g., blood vessels, skin, connective tissue), while others may target a specific organ (e.g., thyroid, pancreas). Symptoms generally associated with the autoimmunity include inflammation, pain, muscle aches, fatigue, and a low-grade fever. Inflammation may be the first sign of an autoimmune disease.
Treatment of an autoimmune disorder traditionally involves suppressing the immune response and will vary according to which tissues are affected. For a naturopathic physician, however, treatment of an autoimmune disorder involves finding and treating the cause of the disorder, not just suppressing the immune response. In general, the root cause of an autoimmune disorder is an overactive immune response due to some trigger. In the descriptions of the conditions listed above, most have inflammation in common.
For example, multiple sclerosis, the most common nerve disease in young adults, is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the nervous system that is believed to be due to an autoimmune attack on myelin, the protective coating on nerve cells. In multiple sclerosis, myelin is slowly eroded by the body’s immune system, leading to problems with muscle coordination (because muscles require the action of nerves) and vision. Researchers suspect that the autoimmune trigger in multiple sclerosis may be infection by a virus or other microorganism, but this has not been proven beyond doubt.
If you are seeking treatment for an autoimmune condition or suspect you may have one, we can help you. Please call our office to make an appointment with one of our naturopathic or Chinese medicine practitioners, (360) 787-3615.