Information for Patients
Your body's immune system protects you from disease and infection. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. Autoimmune diseases can affect many parts of the body.
No one is sure what causes autoimmune diseases. They do tend to run in families. Women - particularly African-American, Hispanic-American, and Native-American women - have a higher risk for some autoimmune diseases.
There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, and some have similar symptoms. This makes it hard for your health care provider to know if you really have one of these diseases, and if so, which one. Getting a diagnosis can be frustrating and stressful. Often, the first symptoms are fatigue, muscle aches and a low fever. The classic sign of an autoimmune disease is inflammation, which can cause redness, heat, pain and swelling.
The diseases may also have flare-ups, when they get worse, and remissions, when symptoms get better or disappear. Treatment depends on the disease, but in most cases one important goal is to reduce inflammation. Sometimes doctors prescribe corticosteroids or other drugs that reduce your immune response.
Normally, if you get hurt, your body forms a blood clot to stop the bleeding. For blood to clot, your body needs cells called platelets and proteins known as clotting factors. If you have a bleeding disorder, you either do not have enough platelets or clotting factors or they don't work the way they should.
Bleeding disorders can be the result of other diseases, such as severe liver disease or a lack of vitamin K. They can also be inherited. Hemophilia is an inherited bleeding disorder. Bleeding disorders can also be a side effect of medicines such as blood thinners.
Various blood tests can check for a bleeding disorder. You will also have a physical exam and history. Treatments depend on the cause. They may include medicines and transfusions of blood, platelets, or clotting factor.
Normally, if you get hurt, your body forms a blood clot to stop the bleeding. After the bleeding stops and healing takes place, your body usually breaks down and removes the clot. But some people get too many clots or their blood clots abnormally. Many conditions can cause the blood to clot too much or prevent blood clots from dissolving properly.
Risk factors for excessive blood clotting include
- Certain genetic disorders
- Atrial fibrillation
- Overweight, obesity, and metabolic syndrome
- Some medicines
- Staying in one position for a long time, such as being in the hospital or taking a long car or plane ride
- Cancer and cancer treatments