At Coastal Immunology and Allergy Clinic, we provide expert diagnosis of autoimmune diseases, food, environmental and animal allergens, treatment and management.
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. The immune system normally guards against germs like bacteria and viruses. When it senses these foreign invaders, it sends out an army of fighter cells to attack them.
Normally, the immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own cells. In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells, resulting in inflammation and damage.
Some autoimmune diseases target only one organ, e.g. Type 1 diabetes damages the pancreas. Other diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), affect the whole body.
Whilst the tendency for autoimmunity may be inherited in some people, factors such as infections, stress and some drugs can play a role in triggering autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are a broad range of more than 80 related disorders that vary from common to rare. They affect about 5% of people and are one of the most significant chronic health problems in Australia.
The early symptoms of many autoimmune diseases are very similar. People may experience symptoms such as fatigue, body aches, sore muscles, swelling or redness, low-grade fever, trouble concentrating, brain fog, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, hair loss, unexplained rashes, belly pain or weight gain.
Autoimmune disease gets missed frequently by doctors because the symptoms can be so variable, and the early warning signs non-specific. Autoimmune diseases are usually diagnosed using a combination of clinical history, blood tests (autoantibodies, inflammation, organ function) and other investigations such as x-rays. Occasionally a biopsy of affected tissues may be required for diagnosis.
Currently there are no cures for autoimmune diseases, although there are a wide range of treatment options, which depend on the stage and type of autoimmune disease. The main aims of treatments are to relieve symptoms, minimize organ and tissue damage, and preserve organ function.