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What is an Auto Immune Disorder?

Auto immune disorders are those diseases or ailments caused by your own immune system . Your immune system has subset of cells called T cells, that indicate the rest of your immune system, how foreign invaders should be dealt with.

In auto immune disorders, your immune system is out of order and is attacking your own tissues , creating a powerful disease or ailment that your body just can't seem to get rid of . By definition, your body is attacking itself, hence auto immune disorders are very hard to treat.

Many auto immune disorders are caused by an imbalance in the ratio and activity of T-helper lymphocytes (Th1 and Th2). These two subsets of cells are in a constant state of balance (like a see-saw): when one is increased, the other is decreased and vice versa. The more common manifestation is a Th2 excess, potentially resulting in an increased incidence of allergies, asthma and a susceptibility to infections (through the corresponding decreased Th1 activity and loss of protection).

The alternative, an excess of Th1 activity ("too much" immune protection), may result in tissue-specific inflammatory damage - such is the case of psoriasis, dermatitis, arthritis, lupus and vitiligo. Other diseases such as MS, although usually showing a Th1 prominence imbalance, may alternate from one imbalance to another.
The most common treatments for auto immune disorders are symptom specific treatments. For example, it is very common that your doctor prescribe pain relievers for arthritis pain, anti itching creams for psoriasis, make up for vitiligo, anti spasmodics for tremor control in MS, or anti inflammatory medications for lupus patients. Doctors can go on for as long as they can prescribing symptomatic drugs for auto immune disorders without treating the real problem.

A more direct approach to the problem, is using potent immune suppressive and anti inflammatory drugs for the more severe cases of auto immune disorders. For example, if you have severe psoriasis, you may be prescribed methotrexate, if you have lupus, you may be prescribed a steroidal product, or if you suffer from MS, you can be prescribed a potent immune suppressive drug such as interferons.

The problem is that while some of these medications can keep the immune system at bay, by suppressing its activity, the side effects that result from this can be as devastating as the disease itself . Very few patients can withstand more than three consecutive treatments with methotrexate due to the damage to the liver that this drug may cause. Lupus patients usually suffer from steroid induced cushing syndrome which disfigures the body, and MS patients can go on for life using immune suppressive drugs only to watch their symptoms reappear on the long run, while suffering from illnesses related to a diminished immune system.

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