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When The Body Attacks Itself (Part 3) - Multiple sclerosis,Rheumatoid arthritis, Inflammatory bowel disease

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3. Multiple sclerosis

Two to four times more women than men suffer MS, which happens when the immune system attacks the fatty (myelin) sheath covering nerves. Symptoms often worsen at menopause and MS can be associated with severe hot fushes.

Symptoms Variable, depending on the part of nervous system affected, but they include fatigue, weakness, numbness, pins and needles and other abnormal sensations, nerve pain, muscle spasms, blurred vision and balance problems.

Treatments A whole range of treatments can reduce infammation and treat symptoms, plus support from physiotherapists, psychologists and other therapists. New biological agents have become available in the past five years, and more are in the pipeline. Some consultants now recommend vitamin D, as some studies suggest it may help prevent relapses.

4. Rheumatoid arthritis

Afecting two to four times as many women as men, the immune system attacks the synovial membranes that surround joints, causing joint destruction. It can also affect other tissues and organs, including eyes, skin, lungs, liver and heart.

Symptoms Redness, swelling and pain in the joints (often afecting matching joints on both sides of the body), morning stiffness, fatigue, general feeling of unwellness (malaise).

Treatments Anti-infammatory and disease-modifying drugs that slow underlying processes. Biological agents that directly target joint infammation have made RA a much more treatable condition than it was even five to ten years ago. The latest, rituximab, acts on the activity of immune cells called B lymphocytes.

Description: Rheumatoid arthritis

Biological agents that directly target joint infammation have made rheumatoid arthritis a much more treatable condition than it was even fve to ten years ago

5. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are slightly more likely to affect women than men.

Symptoms Abdominal pain, diarrhoea that is often bloody, fatigue, weight loss, mouth ulcers.

Treatments Anti-infammatory drugs, steroids and immune system suppressors. Surgery in severe cases. UC and Crohn’s have lagged behind other autoimmune diseases but new treatments are in the pipeline. One agent, vedolizumab, which blocks the transit of immune cells called leukocytes from getting to the digestive tract, is already being used in the US and looks promising, but isn’t yet approved in the UK.

Description: Abdominal pain may be the early symtom of IBD

Abdominal pain may be the early symtom of IBD

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