Your Guide to Autoimmune Disorders in Children
Autoimmune disorders in children are rare. Doctors and scientists are still trying to establish its causes and a definitive method for treatment. If your child is diagnosed with autoimmune disorders, understand its signs, symptoms, and prognosis at once.
The immune system, in layman terms, is a natural protection, a shield from diseases. If the immune system is out of place, we would be sick all the time! Immune system comprises of special cells, molecules, tissues, and organs. They become the natural defenders of the body to fight off germs and harmful bacteria 24 hours a day. However, errors within the immune system can lead to increase in illness and diseases.
What is Autoimmune Disease?
A serious malfunction in the immune system causes it to attack the body’s healthy organs and systems treating them as foreign. An autoimmune disorder can affect any part of the body, especially connective tissues such as skin, muscle, and joints. It is referred to as a disorder because it forms a cluster of diseases. As of now, approximately 80 diseases have been identified that are linked with autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune disorders in children can stress out parents immensely.
Common autoimmune conditions among kids include type-1 diabetes, juvenile arthritis, lupus (inflammatory) and celiac (hyperactivity of gluten resulting in indigestion) diseases.
Types of autoimmune diseases are classified according to the various organs it affects. For example:
- Autoimmune diseases that affect multiple organs include HIV and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), the latter being more common in females
- Autoimmune diseases that affect eyes are acute anterior uveitis, which is an inflammatory disease and Jorgen’s Syndrome, in which tear and saliva producing glands are adversely affected
- Scleroderma is notorious as an autoimmune disease affecting skin. Others in this category include Dermatomycosis’s, Psoriasis.
- Autoimmune diseases that affect the nerves include multiple sclerosis adversely affecting the brain as well as Myasthenia gravis
- Autoimmune diseases that affect gastrointestinal system are autoimmune hepatitis, inflammatory bowels, and celiac disease
Causes of Autoimmune Diseases
The precise reason for occurrence of autoimmune diseases is still unknown. There are various theories that were put forth, criticized, evaluated, and even discarded. However, scientists have come up with three autoimmune disease causes among certain population:
Autoimmune diseases seem to be hereditary for a percentage of population. If the mother or father is prone to any autoimmune disease, it is likely that the child will too develop them.
Certain events might trigger the onset of autoimmune disease such as infection, accidents, consumption of certain drugs or toxins.
Since autoimmune diseases affect females more than males, it is assumed that there is certain hormone, presence of which can result into its onset.
Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases
Signs of autoimmune diseases in children are not specific. Given to its generality, their presence might not always result in autoimmune disorders making it difficult for the doctors to diagnose. However, following are some common autoimmune disease symptoms:
- Persisting fatigue
- Dizziness and fainting
- Loss of weight
- Rashes and skin irritations
- Stiffness in joints
- Sudden hair loss
- Dry eyes
- Dry mouth
- Constant outbreaks of cold and cough
Autoimmune Disease Treatments
There isn’t one single cure for autoimmune diseases. The treatment largely involves controlling the symptoms of diseases. Every autoimmune disease calls for different action of treatment. The doctors might first try to bring down the obvious symptoms to control the disease itself in order to stop autoimmune disease from intensifying as well as increasing the body’s resistance. Doctors might prescribe a combination of various drugs and medicines and if required, surgery.
Some household options include eating healthy and balanced diet, regular exercise, reducing stress and immediate appointments with doctor for even simple cough and cold. Autoimmune disorders can have drastic effects not only on the child but also on the parents. In any case, should symptoms arise, you must immediately consult with your doctor.