Mark J. Holterman, MD, is a practicing pediatric surgeon and professor of medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Peoria, Illinois. During nearly three decades in the field, Dr. Mark J. Holterman has had the opportunity to investigate many areas of medical research including stem cell and regenerative therapies, obesity, and autoimmunity and autoimmune diseases.
An autoimmune disease occurs when one’s body misinterprets its own cells as foreign and begins to attack them the same way it would cancerous cells. There are many different types of autoimmune diseases, and they can be difficult to diagnose due the similarity in symptoms. Three common autoimmune diseases are explored below.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): This chronic inflammatory disease, which can affect people of all ages, leads the immune system to attack and debilitate the joints of the hand. Though there is no cure for any autoimmune disease, patients suffering from RA can find relief with NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), steroids, and biologic response modifiers. Physical therapy can help keep the joints supple, and surgeries such as tendon repair and joint fusion can enable renewed usability.
Psoriasis: This disease causes changes in the life cycle of the skin cells, and overproduction of these cells leads to dry, itchy, painful “scales” on the surface of the skin. Topical corticosteroids may be used to treat mild forms of psoriasis, along with calcineurin inhibitors and salicylic acid. Some patients have also found light therapy treatments effective.
Hashimoto’s disease: This disease affects the thyroid, part of the endocrine system that produces important hormones. Also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, the disease causes hypothyroidism and can result in a wide range of symptoms including fatigue, brittle nails, hair loss, and lapses in memory. Patients often require synthetic hormones, which mimic the body’s natural reserves. The hormone levels in the body must then be closely monitored, as an overabundance can lead to serious problems.