Autoimmune FAQ/ Q&AWatch
Autoimmune conditions affect hundreds of thousands of people in the UK alone and there are more than 80 different autoimmune conditions currently identified.
This thread is for AI related information. I will address some questions and will try to answer any you may have. If you have any AI related questions or want to share some information yourself please post it here.
You can find an AI experiences threads here:
What is an autoimmune (AI) disease?
It's where somebody's immune system mistakenly targets part of their own body.
Immune systems are designed to protect your body by attack foreign cells like viruses. They can tell the difference between your own cells and foreign ones and create anybodies to attack foreign cells. With an autoimmune disease your immune system believes some of your own cells are foreign and attack them. Different autoimmune diseases are from the immune system attacking different cells (skin, joint, glands etc).
Why does it do that?
Well actually nobody knows (yet). There are some theories that certain things like exposure to environmental factors (chemicals, illnesses etc) play a role and some AI diseases can run in families. As of yet though we do not know what actually causes an immune system to turn against it's own body's cells.
What is a "trigger"?
Even if your immune system identifies some of your cells as foreign, it may not always be attacking them or you may not always feel the same level of symptoms. Sometimes certain things will trigger your immune system to attack or make an attack worse. These triggers are not the cause of the AI disease, but can sometimes be what cause individual attacks and sometimes avoiding those triggers can help to reduce attacks. Triggers are not the same for everybody and may not affect everybody, but can include things like certain foods, stress or tiredness, other illnesses (like a cold or infection).
What treatment is there? Can it be cured?
Because we don't know what causes it, it can't be cured. Treatments vary depending on the individual condition, but often involve managing symptoms or suppressing the whole immune system so it can't do as much damage.
Are AI diseases contagious? Could I catch one?
As far as is currently known, AI diseases are not contagious and cannot be passed on from person to person (although some may have a genetic factor).
Because we don't know the exact cause though, it can't be guaranteed that there are no contagious factors. There are some theories on this, but take them with a big pinch of salt, because there are a lot of unknowns and potential-ies and theoretical-ies involved.
Can I help?
Donations to charities that do research or fund care are always good, but that's not all you can do. Even little acts can be really helpful or supportive. AI conditions (or any health problem for that matter) can make some situations difficult. Trying to keep an open mind and taking a moment to think about how you could help or support somebody can end up having a real positive impact.
Maybe it's sending a friend who you know is having a hard time a text to check on them, maybe it's letting somebody have your seat on the bus even though they don't look disabled, maybe it's just giving somebody the time or smiling at somebody. Having a health condition can be challenging and isolating, but little acts of kindness can help with that.
You don't have to do huge things to make the world a better place. Helping to spread awareness can be really wonderful too. The world is full of good people, but nobody can know about everything. Spreading awareness helps link good people with situations they could potentially help with. Even if you can't help directly you may well end up as the bridge that connects somebody who can.
What is it like to have an AI condition?
That depends on the condition and on the individual who has it. Different AI conditions affects different parts of the body and that means different symptoms. They can also cause other issues as side effects or because of knock on effects. Essentially AI conditions can cause any number of symptoms from itchy skin to dizziness to agonising pain to organ failure.
If you want a better understanding of how it feels to have an AI condition I would suggest looking at some personal experiences from people with them. Just remember, even people with the exact same conditions may not be affected the exact same way or feel the same with it.
What are some AI diseases? I'm going to put this one into another post because I plan to add to it and the site isn't a big fan of me editing big posts for some reason.
Any questions or info you have please add them below. And check out that other thread to read some experiences or to share your own.
These are just a few examples of AI conditions and some very brief explanations. If you want to learn more, give them a google.
Type 1 Diabetes
(Immune system targets insulin producing cells in the pancreas which leads to blood sugar imbalance)
(Immune system targets joints which leads to inflammation, damage and pain)
(Immune system targets adrenal glands which leads to low cortisol and aldosterone- affects various things including energy, mood and appetite)
Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves disease(Immune system targets thyroid gland causing it to under or over produce thyroxine- affects various things including temperature control, heart rate, energy and mood)