what is an autoimmune disease? (like ms)

21Jan15

This is the first of my (many) upcoming posts to educate people about what MS is, and what it means to have MS. I’ve seen many other blogger’s posts about “this is what it feels like to have MS” and, honestly, many of them are very negative. I’m lucky in that I have a lot of good days. I firmly believe that if I didn’t keep such a close watch on my diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle, that my number of good days wouldn’t be so many.

Anyway, MS is one of a large number of autoimmune diseases. A normally-functioning immune system contains different types of cells that “seek and destroy” foreign invaders, such as viruses, bacteria, and even cancer cells. In those with autoimmune diseases, the immune system decides that the person’s own cells are a foreign invader, and attacks itself. Why? This is something that research hasn’t figured out.

The part of the body under attack is different for different autoimmune diseases. Type 1 diabetes, for instance, is another autoimmune disease, and the pancreas (which produces insulin) is under attack in that case. Rheumatoid arthritis is another variant, in which the joints are the issue. There are also many rarer autoimmune diseases. In those of us with MS, the immune system wrongly attacks the nervous system. More specifically, the protective wrapping, or the “insulation”, around some of the nerves, so that they can’t conduct nerve impulses so efficiently.

There are a few varieties of MS, which I’ll talk about in a different post–luckily, the majority of us with MS aren’t under constant immune siege. However, there are drugs available to modify the immune cells, so that they are less likely to attack our nervous system (“disease modifying drugs”). They don’t completely eliminate relapses, but they strongly reduce the frequency. (Me, I’ve been in good shape enough to not have had a relapse in almost 2 1/2 years. Yay!)

A few other facts about autoimmune disease: all of them (not just MS) are more common in women than men. (Unknown why.) But, when men get them, the symptoms are generally much more severe. And, the disease modifying medications are available for many autoimmune diseases, not just MS; but you may have guessed that since they interfere with the function of immune cells, those of us taking the drugs may have reduced immune capacity.

And there’s your science lesson for the day… šŸ™‚

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3 Responses to “what is an autoimmune disease? (like ms)”

  1. Thanks for the positivity! I am taking the same approach. Just diagnosed on Jan 7th. I am steering clear of negative content. The power of the mind and spirit to is so great.

    • Awesome, Lisa! I think attitude means so much. If nothing else, it sways our daily decisions, and we can make so many positive choices! Here’s to health! šŸ™‚


  1. 1 anti-vaccination and autoimmune disease | In Search of My New Normal

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