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Autoimmune diseases make the body's immune system attack healthy cells and tissues that are mistaken for diseased tissue or harmful cells. There are many different types of autoimmune diseases, and often require different treatment methods. Which body parts are affected by the disease help doctors determine which treatment approaches would be best. The most commonly affected body parts include the thyroid, pancreas, muscles, skin, blood vessels, and joints. Autoimmune disease treatment may include immunosuppressive medications, hormones, supplements, blood transfusions, and physical therapy.
Immunosuppressive medications are used in many autoimmune disease treatment plans. These medications reduce the immune system's attacks on organs, joints, muscles, and other tissues. Immunosuppressive drugs can cause serious side effects in some patients so should be taken exactly as prescribed, and patients taking these medications should be monitored carefully by their doctors for signs of kidney or liver problems. Patients taking immunosuppressive drugs for autoimmune disease treatment may be more prone to serious infections, so they should take precautions to stay healthy and see their doctors if they are getting sick or develop an infected wound.
Hormones and supplements can help replace deficiencies due to an autoimmune disease. Depending on the type of disease, patients may need a thyroid supplement, insulin injections, or vitamin supplements as part of their autoimmune disease treatment. Autoimmune disease patients should not take any supplements, herbs, or vitamins unless recommended to do so by their doctors, since these substances may alter organ function and the way the immune system functions.
Patients diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that affects the blood may need to undergo regular blood transfusions. Some diseases cause the immune system to attack the body's red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body. Blood transfusions can cause complications, including transmission of blood-borne illnesses, allergic reaction, and iron buildup, which can damage the liver and heart. Chelation therapy, which removes excess iron, may be needed in conjunction with blood transfusions for autoimmune disease treatment in some patients.
Physical therapy can help minimize pain and swelling and also increase mobility in patients with diseases that affects the muscles and joints. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can also help reduce inflammation associated with the immune system's attacks on these soft tissues. Many autoimmune disease patients must see doctors who specialize in a certain area of the body for treatment, such as rheumatologists for joints and muscles or endocrinologists for thyroid and pancreas-related autoimmune diseases.