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.
Also called: Viral hepatitis
Your liver is the largest organ inside your body. It helps your body digest food, store energy, and remove poisons. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver.
Viruses cause most cases of hepatitis. The type of hepatitis is named for the virus that causes it; for example, hepatitis A, hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Drug or alcohol use can also cause hepatitis. In other cases, your body mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the liver.
Some people who have hepatitis have no symptoms. Others may have
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dark-colored urine and pale bowel movements
- Stomach pain
- Jaundice, yellowing of skin and eyes
Some forms of hepatitis are mild, and others can be serious. Some can lead to scarring, called cirrhosis, or to liver cancer.
Sometimes hepatitis goes away by itself. If it does not, it can be treated with drugs. Sometimes hepatitis lasts a lifetime. Vaccines can help prevent some viral forms.