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World Autoimmune Arthritis Day (May 20): Autoimmune Diseases And Types

World Autoimmune Arthritis Day (WAAD) is celebrated every year on 20 May since 2012 to raise awareness on autoimmune and autoinflammatory arthritis and related diseases such as lupus and Crohn's disease. The day was established by the International Foundation for Autoimmune Arthritis (IFAA).

WAAD is usually an online awareness event. The awareness of autoimmune/autoinflammatory arthritis helps in its early detection, diagnosis and treatment. As the disease progression is irreversible, early interventions are mandatory to prevent damage and disability of a person. Let's know more about arthritis and other autoimmune disorders.

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What Is Autoimmune Arthritis?

Autoimmune arthritis (AAr) is a type of arthritis in which a person's immune system attacks itself and cause inflammation in the joints and other body parts such as skin, lungs, eyes and blood vessels. There are multiple types of arthritis out of which AAr are is considered the worst due to its multiple symptoms, rate of progression and incurability.

Common symptoms of AAr include joint pain, swelling in the joints, weakness, fever, joint stiffness and loss of appetite. Risk factors of AAr depend on its type. Genetic and environmental factors (smoking and obesity) also play an important role in its cause.

Some of the common forms of autoimmune arthritis include

  • Rheumatoid arthritis: It can affect any joint in the body but usually causes swelling in hands, wrist and feet. Rheumatoid is mostly found in women compared to men. [1]
  • Reactive arthritis: It is caused due to bacteria, viral, fungal or parasitic infections. Swelling due to the infection starts at one joint and may spread to other joints.
  • Spondyloarthropathies: This autoimmune arthritis mainly attacks the spine and pelvic joints. It may cause bone fusion leading to dysfunction of hips and shoulder. [2]
  • Psoriatic arthritis: It mostly occurs in people who have psoriasis, a skin condition that causes red, itchy and dry on the skin. Fingers are mostly affected; however, it can affect any joint areas such as toes and spine.
  • Palindromic rheumatism: It is a form of autoinflammatory arthritis that causes recurring pain and inflammation in the joints. Sometimes, it just disappears and sometimes a person can get chronic inflammation that turns into rheumatoid arthritis. [3]
  • Juvenile arthritis: It mainly occurs in children below 16 years of age. Juvenile arthritis is an umbrella term for various forms of arthritis that affect children.

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What Are Autoimmune Diseases?

Not only arthritis, but there are many other autoimmune diseases that affect different organs and systems of the body. As aforementioned, autoimmune disease (AD) is the malfunction of the immune system in which it attacks its own tissues.

Our immune system is wired in such a way that as soon as any pathogens or foreign substance enters the body, it sends out antibodies to fight them off. In AD, the immune system mistakenly considers its own tissues as pathogens and produces autoantibodies to target its own tissues. This causes inflammation and organ damage, sometimes leading to the death of a person.

Types Of Autoimmune Diseases

1. Type 1 Diabetes

It is a chronic disorder in which the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin as the immune system attacks its cells and destroys the organ. [4]

2. Lupus

It is a complex disease in which the immune system can attack any body parts such as heart, brain, skin and lungs and cause inflammations. It is a long-term disease.

3. Crohn's disease

It is referred to as an autoimmune disorder of the gastrointestinal tract. It comes under inflammatory bowel disease. Doctors sometimes suspect it as a genetic disorder as many members of the same family gets diagnosed with the disease.

4. Celiac disease

It occurs due to intake of gluten-based foods such as wheat and barley. The body automatically produces an immune response thinking such foods as pathogens and attacks the small intestine. [5]

5. Multiple sclerosis

In this disorder, the immune system attacks the nerve fibres of the brain and spinal cord causing communication problems between the brain and the body.

6. Autoimmune hepatitis

The disease is characterised by inflammation of the liver caused due to immune attack. The condition lasts for years and may lead to liver failure.

7. Graves' disease

Here, the immune system attacks the thyroid gland and makes it produce more thyroid hormone, resulting in hypothyroidism. It is also considered as genetic and more prevalent in women.

8. Myositis

The condition involves chronic inflammation and weakening of the muscles, especially the neck, hips and shoulder. The muscle damage due to attack by the immune system cause motor problems in people. [6]

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9. Pernicious anaemia

It is a condition in which the body is unable to make red blood cells due to the inability of the body to absorb vitamin B12 from foods. This is due to the lack of intrinsic factor produced by the stomach. Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that helps in making RBCs and DNA. [7]

10. Neuromyelitis optica

Also known as Devic's disease, neuromyelitis optica is a condition in which the immune system attacks the spinal cord and optic (eyes) nerves. It may also sometimes attack brain cells.

Story first published: Tuesday, May 19, 2020, 19:00 [IST]
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