Coastal Immunology and Allergy Clinic | Immunology / Autoimmune Disease
Coastal Immunology and Allergy Clinic offer expert diagnosis and management for adults and children with conditions within the spectrum of Immunological and Allergic disorders.
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Immunology / Autoimmune Disease

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.

List of common Autoimmune disorders:

Lupus is an inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease affecting connective tissue (the tissue that connects joints, muscles, blood vessels and internal organs) in the body.
Scleroderma involves overproduction of a protein called collagen in connective tissue. This results in hardening of the skin. The hallmark of scleroderma is hardening of the skin. Although scleroderma is currently not curable, treatments can help reduce symptoms.

An immune system disorder characterized by dry mouth and dry eyes.

Raynaud’s disease is a common condition which causes a temporary spasm (narrowing) of the arteries leading to their fingers and toes, which means the tissues in these areas temporarily do not get enough blood and therefore enough oxygen.

Initially, the affected fingers or toes appear white and may feel numb or cold, then turn blue. The colour can have a patchy appearance. As the blood returns, they turn red and may feel painful with tingling, a feeling of ‘pins and needles’ or burning. The colour sequence is not the same for everyone with Raynaud’s disease.

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a rare, progressive disorder characterized by high blood pressure (hypertension) in the arteries of the lungs (pulmonary artery) for no apparent reason. The pulmonary arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from the right side of the heart through the lungs. Symptoms of PAH include shortness of breath (dyspnea) especially during exercise, chest pain, and fainting episodes. The exact cause of PAH is unknown and although treatable, there is no known cure for the disease. PAH usually affects women between the ages of 30-60.

 

Individuals with PAH may go years without a diagnosis, either because their symptoms are mild, nonspecific, or only present during demanding exercise.
However, it is important to treat PAH because without treatment, high blood pressure in the lungs causes the right heart to work much harder, and over time, this heart muscle may weaken or fail. The progressive nature of this disease means that an individual may experience only mild symptoms at first, but will eventually require treatment and medical care to maintain a reasonable quality of life.

A chronic inflammatory disorder affecting many joints, including those in the hands and the feet.

Hashimoto’s is a common cause of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition – immune system cells attack the thyroid gland, and the resulting inflammation and destruction of thyroid tissue reduce the thyroid’s ability to make hormones.

An immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

An inflammation of the blood vessels that causes changes in the blood vessel walls.

Psoriasis, a chronic, recurrent inflammatory skin disorder.  It occurs when immune cells known as T lymphocytes, or T cells, attack healthy skin cells in both the nonvascular horny outer layer of the skin and its deeper vascular layer. This attack causes the life span of the skin cells to shorten to about 3 – 5 days (skin cells normally live about 20 – 28 days) and forces the cells to reproduce more rapidly than normal, creating lesions. In most cases, the lesions tend to be symmetrically distributed on the elbows and knees, scalp, chest, and buttocks. The lesions may remain small and solitary or coalesce into large plaques that often form geometrical patterns with a central area of normal skin.

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