Autoimmune tests are tests that are used to diagnose autoimmune diseases. These tests are a combination of autoantibody blood tests-rays, clinical presentation and blood tests that measure organ function and inflammation. There is no cure at present for autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune disorders are those disorders that occur when the body’s immune system attacks different organs, cells, tissues or the entire body. The immune system does not recognize the cells as one of its own and creates antibodies that attack the cells. Autoimmune testing is necessary to see if the person has organ specific autoimmune disease or generalized autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease tests are carried out to see why the body has reacted in a particular way. Genetic factors, infections, certain drugs/medications, sequestrated antigens and organ rejection after transplant are some of the causes of autoimmune disorders.
A healthy immune system protects you from outside threats like infections. It presents a strong line of defense against germs such as bacteria and viruses. However, when your immune system doesn’t function normally and instead attacks its host – your body – that’s autoimmune disease.
Types of Autoimmune Blood Tests
Here are some of the more common autoimmune conditions:
Lupus causes inflammation and damage that can affect multiple body systems including your skin, joints, kidneys, brain, heart lungs and red blood cells. A “butterfly rash” that spreads across both cheeks and over the nose with a winged appearance is a distinctive lupus sign, although not everyone with lupus develops it. Triggers for lupus flare-ups may include sunlight, infections or certain medications.
Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the joints – and more. Inflammation causes the lining of the joints, or synovium, to thicken, which leads to joint pain and swelling. As rheumatoid arthritis progresses, irreversible joint damage can occur. It can damage cartilage and bones, and joints can loosen and become painful, stiff and less mobile.
Type 1 Diabetes
Insulin is an essential hormone that regulates levels of blood glucose, or blood sugar, in the body. Left untreated, high blood sugar can lead to medical emergencies in the short term and organ damage over time. In Type 1 diabetes, the immune system targets insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, called beta cells. As beta cells are destroyed, the body can’t make enough insulin, causing blood sugar levels to climb dangerously high.
Type 1 diabetes that isn’t well-controlled can cause major complications involving the heart, blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, eyes, feet and skin. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the body burns fat instead glucose and the blood becomes acidic. This complication of uncontrolled Type 1 diabetes can lead to a coma if not treated.
Usually diagnosed in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood, Type 1 diabetes affects about 1.25 million Americans, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Thyroid hormones regulate how your body uses energy, or its metabolism. These hormones affect a variety of organs and functions, including your heart rate, weight loss and weight gain, cold tolerance, muscle control and mood. Autoimmune disease can affect your thyroid gland, causing it to overproduce thyroid hormones (Graves’ disease) or produce too little (Hashimoto thyroiditis).
Graves’ disease affects less than 1% of people in the U.S., and is up to eight times more common in women than men, according to the NIH. Hashimoto thyroiditis affects up to 5% of people in the U.S., and is also more common in women.
Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis
With psoriasis, the immune system attacks healthy skin cells, causing red, itchy, scaly and uncomfortable skin plaques. Psoriasis also causes systemic inflammation, which can affect the heart and other organs. Psoriatic arthritis, a related inflammatory condition, causes joint pain, swelling and damage.
More than 8 million Americans have psoriasis, and up to 30% of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. The skin condition frequently appears between the ages of 15 and 25, and the arthritis typically develops between ages 30 and 50.
The name myasthenia gravis means “grave muscle weakness.” With this condition, immune system proteins block the chemical connection between the nerves and muscles. This prevents muscles from contracting properly and leads to muscle weakness.
Muscles involved with breathing, arm and leg movement, eye and eyelid movement, chewing, talking, swallowing and facial expression can all be affected. Muscle weakness tends to get worse after activity and improve with rest.
Vasculitis is swelling and inflammation of the blood vessels. ANCA vasculitis is a type of autoimmune vasculitis. Auto-antibodies called ANCA (antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies) target white blood cells called neutrophils, which then attack small blood vessels in the body, explains Falk, who specializes in this condition. Polyarteritis nodosa, another type of vasculitis, affects the arteries.
In ANCA vasculitis, general symptoms include joint and muscle pain, fever and night sweats. When the kidneys are involved, high blood pressure, decreased kidney function and kidney failure can result. Lung involvement can lead to chest pain and coughing up blood. In polyarteritis nodosa, arterial damage can lead to high blood pressure, aneurysms, blood clots and organ damage, particularly to the kidneys.
Various organs are affected, depending on where vasculitis strikes. For example, ANCA vasculitis may cause problems ranging from skin rashes to severe kidney damage.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are chronic, inflammatory conditions of the digestive tract. They can lead to debilitating symptoms like severe diarrhea and abdominal pain. Both fall under the umbrella term inflammatory bowel disease.
While the exact cause is not clear, IBD is believed to have autoimmune and genetic components. About 3 million U.S. adults were diagnosed with IBD in 2015 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People ages 45 and older are more likely to report having IBD.
Myelin is the protective sheath, or layer of insulation, that covers your nerves. In multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks myelin around the spinal cord, brain and optic nerve fibers. This disrupts the flow of information from the brain to the rest of your body. MS can be relatively mild or cause disabling problems with movement, numbness and weakness; one-sided loss of vision; fatigue, dizziness, slurred speech and other symptoms. Women are more likely to have MS, and it can run in families.
Scleroderma is a disease that affects the skin and connective tissues throughout the body. With scleroderma, which means “hard skin,” the body produces too much of the protein collagen. Collagen provides structure to muscle, connective tissue and skin, and also promotes skin elasticity. In some patients, scleroderma affects only the skin, while other patients suffer systemic effects that can impact multiple areas of the body.
Excess collagen can collect in various organs, disrupting their function. For instance, scleroderma may affect the lungs in two ways: It can cause fibrosis or can lead to pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the lungs.
Some autoimmune conditions are largely confined to the skin. These include blistering diseases such as pemphigus, bullous pemphigoid and dermatitis herpetiformis, which is associated with gluten sensitivity from celiac disease.
Other autoimmune conditions include Sjogren’s syndrome, juvenile arthritis, sarcoidosis and eosinophilic esophagitis, a digestive disorder involving multiple food allergies.
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