An Overactive Immune System
If you are born with certain genes, your immune system may react to substances in the environment that are normally harmless. These substances are called allergens. Having an allergic reaction is the most common example of an overactive immune system. Dust, mold, pollen, and foods are examples of allergens.
Some conditions caused by an overactive immune system are:
Asthma. The response in your lungs can cause coughing, wheezing, and trouble breathing. Asthma can be triggered by common allergens like dust or pollen or by an irritant like tobacco smoke.
Eczema. An allergen causes an itchy rash known as atopic dermatitis.
Allergic rhinitis. Sneezing, a runny nose, sniffling, and swelling of your nasal passages from indoor allergens like dust and pets or outdoor allergens like pollens or molds.
Why Do Autoimmune Diseases Develop
The immune system is exceedingly complex and decades of research have illuminated some of the ways it goes awry in autoimmune disease. But, for most autoimmune illness including those mentioned above the true cause is unknown. The most common theory is that a person with a particular genetic background that makes them prone to immune system ‘misfiring’ encounters an environmental trigger and that sets off autoimmune disease. For the most part, we don’t know the trigger or toxin and in a particular population we don’t know why some people develop these conditions and others don’t. These gaps in our knowledge slow the development of effective treatments or preventive measures.
How We Care For Autoimmune Diseases
While the health care team for children with autoimmune disease may include many kinds of specialists, the doctors with the greatest expertise in these illnesses are called pediatric rheumatologists. Of the roughly 200 pediatric rheumatologists in the country, more than half a dozen work at Boston Childrens Hospital. This, and the many other resources we offer, makes Boston Childrens a unique and powerful force in fighting autoimmune disease:
- Our Rheumatology program is one of the biggest in the U.S., treating more than 4,000 outpatients and almost 1,000 inpatients every year.
- Our Samara Jan Turkel Clinical Center brings together pediatric rheumatologists and consulting specialists from across the hospital to offer comprehensive, coordinated care, from providing outpatient and inpatient treatment to helping children and families connect to a wide range of support services.
- The Division of Immunology and Rheumatology Departments collaborate to help children with multiple autoimmune symptoms that don’t fit a single diagnosis through the hospital’s Multiple Manifestations of Autoimmune Disease Clinic
- The Dermatology-Rheumatology Center unites rheumatologists and dermatologists in caring for children with autoimmune diseases that involve the skin, such as psoriatic arthritis, scleroderma and juvenile dermatomyositis.
Recommended Reading: Where Can I Buy Oraquick Hiv Test
Keeping Track Of Symptoms
Particularly for symptoms that change over time, it can be helpful to keep a record you can share with your clinician. Pictures of the affected area can also give your healthcare provider a better sense of how you have been doing.
For symptoms that might indicate an infection, like fever, see a healthcare provider promptly. For any life-threatening symptoms, like sudden difficulty breathing, call 911.
What Are Autoimmune Diseases
Your immune system is made up of organs and cells meant to protect your body from bacteria, parasites, viruses and cancer cells. An autoimmune disease is the result of the immune system accidentally attacking your body instead of protecting it. It’s unclear why your immune system does this.
There are over 100 known autoimmune diseases. Common ones include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis.
Autoimmune diseases can affect many types of tissues and nearly any organ in your body. They may cause a variety of symptoms including pain, tiredness , rashes, nausea, headaches, dizziness and more. Specific symptoms depend on the exact disease.
Also Check: Can You Get Hiv From Hand To Genital Contact
What Are The Symptoms Of Aids
at the initial stage, you may not observe any noticeable symptoms and even when it progresses, it may not be all that noticeable. One may be in this state for months and even years. However, during this time, the virus will rapidly multiply and start damaging the cells that are designed to attack infections.
The moment the immune system is weakened, the victims begin to experience certain conditions such as fatigue, skin rashes, fevers, memory loss, yeast infections, and herpes. In the case of AIDS which is the peak stage of HIV, almost all the organ is greatly affected.
Some of the more common signs of this condition include cough, seizures, confusion, vision impairment, painful swallowing, confusion coma, and nausea.
Key Difference Aids Vs Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmunity is an adaptive immune response mounted against self-antigens and the diseases caused by such responses are called the autoimmune diseases. AIDS is the end stage of HIV infection. In the absence of proper treatment, death occurs in 2-3 years. While AIDS is an infectious venereal disease caused by the HIV virus, autoimmune diseases are caused due to different alterations in the immune system which are triggered by the exposure to various exogenous and endogenous antigens. This is the major difference between AIDS and autoimmune disease.
Don’t Miss: Do Home Hiv Test Kits Work
How The Immune System Works
The immune systemwhich is made up of various organs, cells, and proteinsis designed to protect a persons body from harmful substances, germs, and cell changes that could make them sick.
A normal, healthy immune system is able to ward off most of what comes in contact with the body, with the exceptions of when there are particularly aggressive germs or it is somehow weakened. When a person gets sick with a cold, the flu, or another type of bacterial or viral infection, the fever and other symptoms they experience are caused by their bodys immune response.
A persons immune system has three primary tasks:
- Fighting disease-causing germs like bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi to be removed from the body
- Recognizing and neutralizing harmful substances from the environment
- Fighting disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancer cells
There are also three different types of immunity: innate, acquired, and passive.
What Are The Symptoms Of Autoimmune Diseases
There’s no single set of symptoms that covers the spectrum of autoimmune disease. The most common symptoms tend to be nonspecific, meaning they could be caused by a condition that has nothing to do with the immune system. This can make it harder for doctors to diagnose autoimmune diseases. As a result, a child may need a number of tests to narrow down the possible cause for their symptoms.
Signs that a child may be having an immune system problem include:
- brittle hair or hair loss
- dry eyes and/or mouth
- general “unwell” feeling
Recurring fever, fatigue, rashes, weight loss and so on are not concrete proof that a child has an autoimmune disease, but they do mean the child is ill and needs medical attention. A pediatrician can refer the family to a specialist, likely a pediatric rheumatologist, if they suspect an autoimmune disease.
Read Also: What Is The Blood Count For Hiv
What Can Be Done About Autoimmune Disease
Treatment depends on the condition but most autoimmune conditions are treated with medications that suppress or otherwise alter the immune system hoping to dampen it down enough to quiet the disease but not so much that side effects develop. In some cases, effective treatments are discovered by happenstance for example, in the 1920s, gold salt injections were first used to treat rheumatoid arthritis because gold had been used as an antibiotic to treat tuberculosis and rheumatoid arthritis was thought to be caused by an infection. In more recent years, the identification of immune cells or chemical messages involved in autoimmune disease have led to therapies targeting these components of the immune system .
What Can Go Wrong With The Immune System
Sometimes a person may have an immune response even though there is no real threat. This can lead to problems such as allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. If you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake.
Other immune system problems happen when your immune system does not work correctly. These problems include immunodeficiency diseases. If you have an immunodeficiency disease, you get sick more often. Your infections may last longer and can be more serious and harder to treat. They are often genetic disorders.
There are other diseases that can affect your immune system. For example, HIV is a virus that harms your immune system by destroying your white blood cells. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS . People with AIDS have badly damaged immune systems. They get an increasing number of severe illnesses.
Also Check: How Does Hiv Infect The Human Body
Symptoms Of Hiv Infection
Most people experience a short flu-like illness 2 to 6 weeks after HIV infection, which lasts for a week or 2.
After these symptoms disappear, HIV may not cause any symptoms for many years, although the virus continues to damage your immune system.
This means many people with HIV do not know they’re infected.
Anyone who thinks they could have HIV should get tested.
Some people are advised to have regular tests as they’re at particularly high risk.
What Laboratory Tests Are Used To Monitor Hiv
Two blood tests are routinely used to monitor HIV-infected people. One of these tests, which counts the number of CD4 cells, assesses the status of the immune system. The other test, which determines the so-called viral load, directly measures the amount of virus in the blood .
Drug-resistance testing also has become a key tool in the management of HIV-infected individuals. Clearly, resistance testing is now routinely used in individuals experiencing poor responses to HIV therapy or treatment failure.
Also Check: What Is Usually The First Sign Of Hiv In Man
Our Areas Of Innovation For Autoimmune Diseases
Home to the worlds largest pediatric research enterprise, Boston Childrens is also looking toward the future. Through initiatives like the Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research and the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine, our clinicians and scientists are working together on new ways to identify, treat and potentially cure autoimmune diseases.
Government Of Canada’s Role
The Federal Initiative is a Government of Canada partnership engaging the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the Correctional Service of Canada. Its aim is to prevent the spread of the disease, slow its progression, and improve the quality of life of people living with HIV and AIDS. Through this Initiative, the Government of Canada collaborates with provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, researchers, health care professionals, and people living with and vulnerable to HIV and AIDS.
The Federal Initiative approach focuses on those populations most affected by HIV and AIDS – people living with HIV and AIDS, gay men, Aboriginal peoples, people who use injection drugs, prison inmates, women, youth at risk, and people from countries where HIV is endemic.
Canada has also responded to the global HIV/AIDS crisis. A key component of this approach is the Canadian HIV Vaccine Initiative . The CHVI coordinates Canadian contribution to global efforts to accelerate the development of safe, effective, affordable, and globally accessible HIV vaccines.
Also Check: Which Cells Does Hiv Attack
How Do I Know If I Have Hiv
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Testing is relatively simple. You can ask your health care provider for an HIV test. Many medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them too.
To find an HIV testing location near you, use the HIV Services Locator.
HIV self-testing is also an option. Self-testing allows people to take an HIV test and find out their result in their own home or other private location. You can buy a self-test kit at a pharmacy or online. Some health departments or community-based organizations also provide self-test kits for a reduced cost or for free.
Tests That Diagnose Autoimmune Diseases
No single test can diagnose most autoimmune diseases. A doctor will use tests, review your symptoms, and conduct a physical examination to reach a diagnosis.
Doctors often use the antinuclear antibody test when symptoms suggest an autoimmune disease. A positive test means you may have one of these diseases, but it wont confirm exactly which one you have or if you have one for sure.
Other tests look for specific autoantibodies produced in certain autoimmune diseases. Your doctor might also do nonspecific tests to check for the inflammation these diseases produce in the body.
BOTTOM LINE: A positive ANA blood test may indicate an autoimmune disease. Your doctor can use your symptoms and other tests to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatments are also available to relieve symptoms like pain, swelling, fatigue, and skin rashes.
Eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise may also help you feel better.
BOTTOM LINE: The main treatment for autoimmune diseases is with medications that bring down inflammation and calm the overactive immune response. Treatments can also help relieve symptoms.
More than 80 autoimmune diseases exist. Often their symptoms overlap, making them hard to diagnose.
Autoimmune diseases are more common in women and often run in families.
Blood tests that look for autoantibodies can help doctors diagnose these conditions. Treatments include medications to calm the overactive immune response and bring down inflammation in the body.
Also Check: Is There S Cure For Hiv
How Are Autoimmune Diseases Diagnosed
Diagnosing an autoimmune disease usually takes healthcare providers longer than it does to diagnose other diseases. This is because many autoimmune diseases have similar symptoms with each other and with other diseases. You can help your healthcare provider with the diagnosing process by bringing the following to your appointment:
- A detailed list of any symptoms and how long youve had them.
- A record of your familys health history. Note if anyone in your family has an autoimmune disease.
In addition to interviewing you about your symptoms, your healthcare provider may do some blood tests to check for autoimmune diseases, including:
- Antinuclear antibody test .
Specific symptoms combined with specific blood markers may prove that you have an autoimmune disease.
Secondary Immune Deficiency Disorders
Unlike primary immune system disorders, these are not present genetically from birth. A key example is AIDS caused by untreated transmission with HIV . AIDS makes a person prone to life-threatening infections that unaffected people can fight off easily.
Other kinds of medical conditions might make one more prone to getting certain infections, although not to this degree. These medical conditions include:
People taking certain medications that block the immune system, called immunosuppressants, are also more prone to getting certain infections. This applies to some people getting cancer treatment, for example.
Older adults also tend to have a poorer immune response compared to young, healthy adults, which can make them more prone to serious infections.
Don’t Miss: How Would You Know If You Got Hiv
Autoimmune Disorders And Biological Sex
Most autoimmune disorders are also more common in cisgender women than in cisgender men, although some are not. For example, lupus is 9 times more common in women compared to men. Researchers arent sure why this is the case. But it may have to do with the ways hormones like estrogen interact with the immune system.
How Are Autoimmune Diseases Treated
There are no cures for autoimmune diseases, but symptoms can be managed. Everyones immune system, genetics and environment are different. That means that your treatment must be unique.
Some examples of medications used to treat autoimmune diseases include:
- Limiting processed foods from your diet.
Recommended Reading: Can You Donate Plasma If You Have Hiv
What Questions Might A Healthcare Provider Ask To Help Diagnose An Autoimmune Disease
When your healthcare provider interviews you, they might ask you one or more of the following questions:
- What medications are you taking?
- What are your symptoms?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Have you had to go to the emergency department because of your symptoms?
- How long have you had these symptoms?
- In what ways are your symptoms affecting your quality of life?
- Is there anything that triggers your symptoms? Anything that makes them worse?
- Is there a history of autoimmune diseases in your family?
- Which autoimmune diseases run in your family?
- What over-the-counter or alternative medicines have you tried, if any?
What Causes Autoimmune Diseases
The precise cause of autoimmune diseases is unknown. However, there are risk factors that may increase your chances of getting an autoimmune disease. Risk factors include:
- Some medications. Talk to your healthcare provider about the side effects of medications for blood pressure, statins and antibiotics.
- Having relatives with autoimmune diseases. Some diseases are genetic they run in families.
- Temperature sensitivity.
Recommended Reading: Can Hiv Be Transmitted By Oral Sex
Whats The Deal With Autoimmune Disease
Have you ever heard of autoimmune diseases? Do you, like millions of others, actually have one of them?
The term Autoimmune Disease is used to describe conditions in which the body’s immune system which is supposed to be defending the body against viruses, bacteria and other invaders is thought to be involved in causing or perpetuating illness. It’s as if the body’s defense system has turned on its host.
Whats The Fuss About Autoimmune Diseases
When a person comes down with Ulcerative Colitis Crohns Disease, people tend to distant themselves for fear of being infected with autoimmune disease. People tend to be scared of words like autoimmune disease and are bound to think of AIDS.
It must, however, be noted that there is a huge difference between acquired immune deficiency syndrome and autoimmune diseases. Even though they share a similarity in terms of symptoms, they do have definite differences between them.
Also Check: What Are The Signs That You Are Hiv Positive