In my family, autoimmune disease is a word we are all too familiar with. My maternal grandparents had five children. My grandfather and four out of his five children have at least one autoimmune disease. This paper will review the various autoimmune diseases in my family and how genetics and environmental factors play a part in these diseases.
In order to understand autoimmune diseases, we must understand what autoimmunity is. Health human bodies are equipped with an immune system. The main function of the immune system is to protect the body from invading microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria. The body’s immune system responds to these invading microorganisms. The body produces antibodies or sensitized lymphocytes (types of white blood cells). These antibodies attack and destroy the invading microorganisms (AARDA, 2013). In some cases, the immune system attacks the body’s own cells, destroying its’ own body’s cells as if they were invading microorganisms. These misdirected immune responses on the body are referred to as autoimmunity (JHMI, 2001).
To some degree, autoimmunity occurs naturally in everyone, and usually is harmless. However, in some people, this autoimmunity can lead to autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disease occurs when a specific adaptive immune response is mounted against self-antigens (Janeway CA Jr, 2001). Basically, autoimmune disease occur when the body’s immune system attacks its’ own cells or organs. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are as many as 80 types of autoimmune diseases at the present time. Autoimmune disease affects up to 50 million Americans, 75% of those being women (AARDA, 2013).
REVIEW OF FAMILY AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES
Dupuytren’s Contracture Dupuytren's Contracture is a hand deformity caused by an autoimmune response. It is a form of fibromatosis that affects the skin and palmer fascia in the hand (Cutts, 2005). Knots of tissue form under the skin that form a thick cord that can pull the fingers into a bent position and eventually pull the fingers all the way down to the palm of the hand. When patients are diagnosed early in the onset, they are generally told to watch for progressions and told to do stretching exercises to keep the tendons loose. Steroid injections are used if the patient is experiencing pain or to try and slow the progression of contracture. Once the disease progresses to the point of pulling and curling the fingers in toward the palm of the hand, surgery is an option. During surgery, the knots of tissue are removed and the thick cords are cut to release the fingers. All diseased tissue with be removed as well. Recovery time from surgery is slow and months of intense physical therapy after surgery is needed to regain strength and use of the fingers again. Surgery is not a cure for Dupuytren’s Contracture. In 20% of cases, patients experience some form of reoccurrence, and...