Autoimmune Diseases in the UK: An Overview of Common Types
Autoimmune diseases involve the immune system wrongly attacking healthy cells, causing inflammation and tissue damage. These disorders affect various organs, leading to diverse symptoms and complications.
In this article, we’ll explore their nature, common instances, symptoms, and management options, such as diet, lifestyle changes, medication, and supplements, including IV therapy.
What Causes Autoimmune Diseases?
The immune system is designed to protect the body from harmful invaders, such as bacteria and viruses.
However, in people with autoimmune diseases, the immune system attacks healthy tissues causing an immune response resulting in inflammation and tissue damage. This, in turn, often results in pain, discomfort and loss of function.
List of Common Autoimmune Diseases in the UK:
Autoimmune diseases pose a significant healthcare challenge in the UK, impacting a notable portion of the population. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis demand multidisciplinary care and ongoing research to enhance diagnosis and treatment, ultimately improving the lives of those affected.
This autoimmune disease primarily affects the joints, leading to chronic inflammation, pain and joint damage. It can also affect other organs, such as the heart and lungs.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD includes conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These diseases cause inflammation in the digestive tract, leading to abdominal pain, diarrhoea and weight loss.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease are autoimmune conditions affecting the thyroid gland. Hashimoto’s leads to an underactive thyroid while Graves’ causes an overactive thyroid.
Also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon or Raynaud’s syndrome, is a medical condition that affects blood circulation, primarily in the fingers and toes. However, it can also affect other extremities like the nose, ears, and nipples.
It is characterised by brief episodes in which the blood vessels in these areas narrow, leading to reduced blood flow. As a result, the affected body parts may turn white or blue and feel cold and numb. Symptoms can be triggered by cold temperatures and emotional stress.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, joints and internal organs.
Lupus is a complex and often unpredictable condition that varies in severity among individuals. Treatment typically involves medication to manage symptoms and suppress the immune system’s abnormal activity.
Psoriasis is a skin disorder characterised by the rapid build-up of skin cells, leading to red, scaly patches, sometimes known as plaques.
In individuals with psoriasis the immune system triggers this abnormal skin cell growth. It can affect different parts of the body and may also impact the nails and joints. While it’s not curable, various treatments can help manage symptoms and provide relief from flare-ups.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
MS is a neurological autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the protective covering of nerve fibres, leading to communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body.
This can result in a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, muscle weakness, difficulty with coordination and balance, and problems with vision, sensation, and cognition. MS is a lifelong condition with varying levels of disability and is managed through medications and therapies to slow its progression and alleviate symptoms.
Type 1 Diabetes
In individuals suffering from Type 1 Diabetes the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, leading to high blood sugar levels.
Individuals with type 1 diabetes require lifelong insulin therapy to control their blood sugar and prevent complications. This form of diabetes typically develops in childhood or early adulthood and requires vigilant monitoring of blood sugar levels, along with careful management of diet and insulin administration.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by the consumption of gluten, causing damage to the small intestine and interfering with nutrient absorption.
This damage impairs the absorption of nutrients from food, leading to a range of digestive and systemic symptoms, including diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and skin issues. The primary treatment for coeliac disease is a strict gluten-free diet, which helps alleviate symptoms and prevent long-term complications.
The Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease
The symptoms of autoimmune diseases can vary widely depending on the specific condition and the organs affected. Common symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Fatigue (sometimes chronic)
- Joint Pain
- Skin Issues
- Digestive Problems
- Changes in Weight
- Muscle Weakness
- Hair Loss
- Numbness and Tingling
- Neurological Symptoms
- Difficulty Breathing
- Swollen Glands
- Mouth Ulcers
Managing and Treating Autoimmune Diseases
There are several interventions that can be taken, depending on the condition and its severity. Many try a natural approach before resorting to medication in the form of oral of iv supplementation.
A balanced and healthy diet is crucial for managing autoimmune diseases including anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, fatty fish and whole grains. Some individuals may benefit from specific dietary restrictions, such as gluten avoidance for those with coeliac disease.
Managing stress levels, getting enough sleep and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can positively impact autoimmune conditions.
Regular exercise can help improve joint mobility, reduce inflammation and boost overall health and wellbeing.
In many cases, medication is prescribed to control inflammation and manage symptoms. Immunosuppressive drugs may be used to dampen the immune response.
Some natural supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric and probiotics have anti-inflammatory properties and can provide additional support in managing symptoms.
Taking medication needs to be authorised via consultation with your GP. We would also recommend that you talk to your GP before embarking upon a course of supplements. Although these are natural, they will still have a recommended daily dose and it is important that you stick to the guidelines.
Vitamin D and Autoimmune Risk
Vitamin D plays a vital role in the immune system’s function and may help regulate immune responses. Studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of developing certain autoimmune diseases. Adequate levels of vitamin D may help modulate the immune system and reduce the risk of autoimmune conditions. Read more in How to Increase Vitamin D Levels Quickly and Effectively and The Difference Between Vitamin D, D2, and D3
Food and Lifestyle Sources of Vitamin D
- Cod Liver Oil
- Salmon, Mackerel and Trout
- Fortified Foods (typically cereals and milk, often plant-based)
Exposure to sunlight will see you absorb vitamin D. However, you do need to allow at least 20 minutes in direct sunlight and weigh this up against not wearing sunscreen for that amount of time each day.
Keep a careful eye on your time in the sun and beware that sunlight from October to May in the UK is not strong enough to boost vitamin D to a meaningful level.
Supplements are more reliable all year round and an easy way to enhance your intake. If you’re severely deficient in vitamin D an intramuscular injection may be helpful.
This can only be done by qualified medical practitioners like our team at IVBOOSTUK and only after establishing there is a genuine need for this intervention.