Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

What is it?

Systemic lupus erythematosus, referred to as SLE or lupus, is a chronic (long-term) disease that causes inflammation — pain and swelling. It is sometimes called the “great imitator,” because of people often confuse lupus with other health problems due to its wide range of symptoms.

In addition to affecting the skin and joints, it can affect other organs in the body such as the kidneys, the tissue lining the lungs (pleura) and heart (pericardium), and the brain. Most patients feel fatigue and have rashes, arthritis (painful and swollen joints) and fever.

Lupus flares vary from mild to serious.

See more at: http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Lupus#sthash.7XDtxHdg.dpuf


Sjögren’s Syndrome

What is it?

Sjögren’s Sydrome is a very prevalent autoimmune disease that is severely under-recognized and currently has no FDA approved drug specifically for this illness.

Sjögren’s Syndrome is a systemic disease in which the defining clinical features, dryness of the eyes and mouth, arise from an autoimmune process affecting the lacrimal and salivary glands. It may occur either alone or in the context of another autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus. Sjögren’s syndrome is one of the most prevalent systemic rheumatic diseases with a unique predilection for post-menopausal women. The disease may affect the nervous system, lungs, and kidneys in addition to the exocrine glands. Chronic fatigue, joint pain, and neuropathic pain are significant sources of disability. Late complications may include blindness, dental destruction, oral candidiasis, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

https://www.hopkinssjogrens.org/disease-information/


Antiphospholipid Syndrome

What is it?

Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (commonly called antiphospholipid syndrome or APS) is an autoimmune disease present mostly in young women. Those with APS make abnormal proteins called antiphospholipid autoantibodies in the blood. This causes blood to flow improperly and can lead to dangerous clotting in arteries and veins, problems for a developing fetus and pregnancy miscarriage. People with this disorder may otherwise be healthy, or they also may suffer from an underlying disease, most frequently systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly called lupus or SLE). – See more at: http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Antiphospholipid-Syndrome#sthash.P0wHP3HS.dpuf\


Dysautonomia 

What is it?

Dysautonomia is an umbrella medical term utilized for a group of complex conditions that are caused by dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS regulates all of the unconscious functions of the body, including the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, the gastrointestinal system, metabolic system, and endocrine system. A dysfunction of the ANS can cause debilitating symptoms and may pose significant challenges for effective medical treatment.

Orthostatic intolerance (the inability to remain upright) is a hallmark of the various forms of dysautonomia.

Dysautonomia conditions can range from mild to extremely debilitating. Each dysautonomia case is unique and treatment must be individualized and may include pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods. Patients should be evaluated by a physician who is well-versed in the recent treatment modalities.


Vasculitis

What is it?

Vasculitis is a term for a group of rare diseases that have in common inflammation of blood vessels. These vessels include arteries and veins. There are many types of vasculitis, and they may vary greatly in symptoms, severity and duration. Most types of vasculitis are rare, and the causes are generally not known. Vasculitis affects persons of both sexes and all ages. A few forms of vasculitis affect certain groups of people. For instance, Kawasaki disease occurs only in children. IgA Vasculitis (Henoch-Schönlein) is much more common in children than adults. On the other hand, giant cell arteritis occurs only in adults over 50 years old.

Vasculitis can result in poor blood flow to tissues throughout the body, such as the lungs, nerves and skin. Thus, vasculitis has a wide range of signs and symptoms (what you see and feel), such as:

  • Shortness of breath and cough
  • Numbness or weakness in a hand or foot
  • Red spots on the skin (“purpura”), lumps (“nodules”) or sores (“ulcers”)

On the other hand, vasculitis of the kidneys may produce no symptoms at first but is still a serious problem. Vasculitis can be mild or disabling, or even lead to death. Patients can have one episode of vasculitis or have repeated episodes over several years.

See more at: http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Vasculitis#sthash.Zh6youIn.dpuf


Scleroderma 

What is it?

Scleroderma is an autoimmune rheumatic disease affecting the skin and other organs of the body, meaning that the body’s immune system is acting abnormally. The main finding in scleroderma is thickening and tightening of the skin and inflammation and scarring of many body parts, leading to problems in the lungs, kidneys, heart, intestinal system and other areas. There is still no cure for scleroderma but effective treatments for some forms of the disease are available.

Scleroderma is relatively rare. About 75,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. have this disease; most are women between the ages of 30 and 50. Twins and family members of those with scleroderma or other autoimmune connective tissue diseases, such as lupus, may have a slightly higher risk of getting scleroderma. Children can also develop scleroderma, but the disease is different in children than in adults.

See more at: http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Scleroderma#sthash.dmlcGOLI.dpuf


Undifferientiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD)

What is it?

The term “undifferentiated connective tissue disease” (UCTD) is used to describe people who have symptoms and certain lab test results that look like a systemic autoimmune disorder or connective tissue disease. But they don’t have enough of such characteristics to meet the diagnosis for a well-defined connective tissue disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma. Thus, they seem to have another, similar disorder that doctors call undifferentiated connective tissue disease.”

A systemic autoimmune disorder means that it affects your whole body (systemic) and that your immune system, which normally protects you from outside invaders such as bacteria, turns on parts of your own body and attacks them as if they were invaders. Connective tissue is the “glue” that supports and connects various parts of the body; it includes skin, cartilage, and other tissue in the joints and surrounding the heart and lungs and within the kidney and other organs.]

Although the word “undifferentiated” sounds vague, rheumatologists know this term describes a real problem. It does not mean that your doctor does not know what to call what you have.

This undifferentiated category is distinctly separate from another group of vague-sounding disorders called “overlap syndromes.” People with these syndromes have enough features of more than one connective tissue disease to meet the diagnoses for several at the same time. Thus, they “overlap” two or more diseases. (For example, mixed connective tissue disease [MCTD] is just such an “overlap” syndrome.)


Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD)

What is it?

Mixed connective tissue disease has features of three other connective tissue diseases:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) – An inflammatory disease that can affect many different organs. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, joint pains, weakness, and skin rashes on the face, neck, and upper body.
  • Scleroderma – Abnormal thickening and hardening of the skin, underlying tissue, and organs
  • Polymyositis – Muscle inflammation (swelling)

About 25% of patients with a connective tissue disease (such as dermatomyositis, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and the three disease listed above), develop another connective tissue disease over the course of several years. This is known as an “overlap syndrome.”

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/mixed-connective-tissue-disease


Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

What is it?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system).

In MS, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.

Signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.

There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, treatments can help speed recovery from attacks, modify the course of the disease and manage symptoms.

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/multiple-sclerosis/home/ovc-20131882


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

What is it?

RA is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis, affecting more than 1.3 million Americans. Of these, about 75 percent are women. In fact, 1–3 percent of women may get rheumatoid arthritis in their lifetime. The disease most often begins between the fourth and sixth decades of life. However, RA can start at any age.

RA is a chronic (long-term) disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and limited motion and function of many joints. While RA can affect any joint, the small joints in the hands and feet tend to be involved most often. Inflammation sometimes can affect organs as well, for instance, the eyes or lungs.

The stiffness seen in active RA is most often worst in the morning. It may last one to two hours (or even the whole day). Stiffness for a long time in the morning is a clue that you may have RA, since few other arthritic diseases behave this way.

For instance, osteoarthritis most often does not cause prolonged morning stiffness. Other signs and symptoms that can occur in RA include:

  • Loss of energy
  • Low fevers
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry eyes and mouth from a related health problem, Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Firm lumps, called rheumatoid nodules, which grow beneath the skin in places such as the elbow and hands

See more at: http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Rheumatoid-Arthritis#sthash.jxuKNfoo.dpuf

For information on other autoimmune diseases