Autoimmune Disorders, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Autoimmune Disorders

Our environment contains literally thousands of pathogenic microorganisms such as: viruses, fungi, parasites and bacteria. Normally our body defense system can protect us from these by means of our immune response, but in the modern world, more and more often our systems get out of balance resulting in a malfunction of the system so that our bodies react to our own normal tissues as if they are unwanted invaders. As well we can be subjected to outside stimuli which can inappropriately trigger our immune system.

This inappropriate reaction is known as an autoimmune disorder where our defense system actually becomes destructive rather than protective. There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disorders.

Organs and tissues commonly affected by autoimmune disorders include: red blood cells, blood vessels, connective tissues, endocrine glands such as the thyroid or pancreas, muscles, joints and skin.

Autoimmune conditions

Some of the most common autoimmune diseases include: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus Erythematosus, Aids, Type 1 Diabetes, Guillain Barre syndrome, Celiac disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Sjogrens syndrome, Poriasis, Inflammatory bowel disease and Addisons disease. Asthma and Crohns disease also result from an over reaction of the immune system.

Cause of Autoimmune diseases.

The causes of autoimmunity are not well understood although it is known that there is some genetic factor involved. Other factors include; hormonal influences and environmental stimuli such as sun exposure, infections, pregnancy or drugs.

Diagnosis of Autoimmune Disorders.

Symptoms of autoimmune disorders can come and go and may not follow a clear pattern therefore a diagnosis needs to include family history, laboratory tests for antibodies, radiographs and a physical examination. Approximately 75% of patients are female and they are often affected during their child bearing years.

Treatment of Autoimmune Disorders

There is no real cure so generally treatment focuses on relieving symptoms.

Immunosuppressant drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, pain killers and natural therapies are used. Recent research shows clearly that a disturbance in the body’s Redox homeostasis ( balance) plays a significant part I autoimmune disorders. In fact Redox signaling plays a key regulatory role in the adaptive immune system. Hence supplementation with Redox signaling molecules may well have a profound effect on some of these conditions.

If the autoimmune disorder affects the blood, transfusions may be required.In the case of AIDS, infected T cells a component of the immune system are cleared to prevent the spread of HIV. Unfortunately this results in the progressive destruction of the immune system itself. In severe combined immunodeficiency, lack of an enzyme means that toxic waste builds up inside immune system cells, killing them and thus devastating the immune system.

Revolutionary Treatment Gives Hope For the Chronically Ill

Low dose naltrexone has recently garnered attention as a possible treatment for autoimmune diseases, neurological conditions, cancer and some other illnesses. Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, which means that it blocks opioid receptors in the brain and thus eliminates the feeling of pleasure caused by e.g. drinking alcohol, because our endogenous opioids (endorphins) cannot bind to the receptors. But when used in very small doses (less than 1/10 of the normal dose) naltrexone can be used to stimulate the release of endorphins.

History

Low dose naltrexone was pioneered by the neurologist Bernard Bihari in the early 1980s, when he was studying medications used for drug and alcohol withdrawal. He noticed that very small doses of naltrexone (initially 3 mg) taken at bedtime only blocked the opioid receptors transiently, which stimulated the body to produce more of its endogenous opioids and produced no significant side effects.

Bihari tried LDN as a treatment for HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis, two conditions that have been shown to be associated with low levels of beta endorphin, one of the most important endogenous opioids. In some of his AIDS patients the blood levels of beta endorphin as much as tripled when using low dose naltrexone.

Patients also experienced marked clinical improvement. The MS symptoms (especially fatigue) were relieved and the illness progression seemed to halt. Most patients never experienced a single MS attack after the initiation of low dose naltrexone. Patients infected with HIV had their viral counts drop radically and their CD4 counts subsequently went up. As a result the rates opportunistic infections and AIDS related malignancies decreased.

Later development

Encouraged by his success Bihari and other doctors began trying LDN for other conditions, such as other autoimmune illnesses and cancer, often with great results. The support from the patient community has been overwhelming. Patients with MS have collected money for clinical trials and there have even been three conferences on LDN and the fourth one is scheduled for October 2008.

A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that 89% of patients with Crohn’s disease were improved on LDN and 67% achieved a full remission. There are clinical trials currently running for multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, autism, fibromyalgia, pancreatic cancer and squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (head and neck cancer). A large HIV/AIDS study is also running in Mali, West Africa.

Illnesses that can be treated with LDN

LDN has been successfully used to treat the following conditions:

Autoimmune diseases

  • multiple sclerosis
  • systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE/LED)
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • pemphigoid
  • sarcoidosis
  • scleroderma
  • Crohn’s disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • celiac disease
  • psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis
  • Wegener’s granulomatosis
  • transverse myelitis

Cancers

  • bladder cancer
  • breast cancer
  • carcinoid tumor
  • colorectal cancer
  • glioblastoma
  • liver cancer
  • non-small cell lung cancer (NSLC)
  • chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  • lymphoma (both Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s)
  • melanoma
  • multiple myeloma
  • neuroblastoma
  • ovarian cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • renal cell carcinoma
  • throat cancer
  • uterine cancer

Other illnesses

  • HIV/AIDS
  • hepatitis C
  • amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/primary lateral sclerosis (PLS)
  • autism
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Behcet’s disease
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, emphysema)
  • endometriosis
  • fibromyalgia
  • chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME)
  • irritated bowel syndrome (IBS)

LDN may possibly also work for e.g. myasthenia gravis, antiphospholipid syndrome/Hughes syndrome, narcolepsy (a possibly autoimmune condition), interstitial cystitis, chronic Lyme disease/post Lyme syndrome, acne, rosacea, chronic urticaria, dementia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), cluster headaches, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It has been reported to be helpful in insomnia and migraine prevention.

Mode of action

Endorphins are often associated with the pleasant feeling we get from e.g. exercise, but they are more than just that. Beta endorphin and met enkephalin, another opioid peptide produced by the body have profound effects on the immune system. Numerous animal studies have demonstrated that met enkephalin acts as an anti-cancer agent. Beta endorphin levels have shown to be low in HIV/AIDS, many autoimmune conditions and e.g. migraine.

Autoimmune illnesses have been traditionally seen as manifestations of an overactive immune system and are usually treated with immunosuppressants, but more and more data is emerging that suggests that autoimmune conditions may in fact be forms of immunedeficiency, explaining why LDN, an immunostimulant, works for them.

Clinical effects

In most autoimmune diseases the disease progression halts. Symptoms, such as fatigue, pain, muscle weakness and cognitive problems are often alleviated, as well. In degenerative conditions like ALS and Alzheimer’s the illness progression is slowed down. The lipodystrophy caused by antiretroviral (HIV) drugs usually improves significantly.

Bihari reports that a halt in cancer growth occurs in about 50% of the cancer patients he treats. Some of these patients show objective signs of tumor shrinkage. Some patients who have been deemed terminal with little time left are still alive and doing well years later, such as one with pancreatic cancer (one of the deadliest cancers) whose case was published in Integrative Cancer Therapies.

According to Bihari LDN works best for the following cancers: multiple myeloma, Hodgkin’s disease, breast cancer, cancers of the gastrointestinal tract (including the pancreas) and non-small cell lung cancer. That isn’t to say that cancer patients should ditch their existing treatments, but LDN can be combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Some patients only undergo surgery or are considered not to benefit from conventional treatment, so they would be good candidates for LDN.

How it is used

LDN is taken every night between 9 PM and 3 AM, as the body produces most of its endorphins during the early morning hours. There are usually no side effects. Some people experience problems with sleeping during the first week. Nausea, feeling “high”, gas and bloating and hunger pangs may occur in the beginning and usually go away in a few days. In patients with MS spasticity may transiently worsen. It may take anywhere between a day and a few months to notice improvement.

LDN can safely be taken with all other medications, foods or supplements, but because it is an opiate antagonist it cannot be combined with any narcotic painkillers (opiates), including tramadol, and taking it with immunosuppressive drugs (like corticosteroids) may cause the drugs to “cancel out” each other’s effects, as LDN is an immunostimulant. The only contraindication is a past organ transplant, because taking an immunostimulant might lead to graft rejection.

Any doctor can prescribe LDN as an “ex tempore” prescription, to be filled by a compounding pharmacy. Some people use foreign pharmacies, as it is legal in most countries to order medications from abroad with a valid prescription. LDN may be formulated as capsules or liquid, but the liquid has to be refrigerated and is less convenient when traveling. It is recommended that calcium carbonate is not used as a filler for tablets.

The recommended dose is 4.5 mg, but some people, especially those who are very slim and those with severe MS, only take 3 mg. Often prescriptions are written for 1.5 mg capsules so that the patient can try taking either two or three at once. LDN is also relatively inexpensive, usually costing between $15 and $40 a month.

Secrets of Stem Cells in Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

Multiple Sclerosis is a disorder in which a persons own immune mechanisms attack the nervous system(myelin sheath of the nerve cells is inflamed) and leads to disability, blindness and sometimes even paralysis. This was first identified as a disease as far back as 1860s; nevertheless the exact reason for this disease is still a mystery. There are several factors that are thought to actually contribute to the disease, which changes itself as different symptoms that can show as so minor and are not recognized, and most often they can leave a person fully disabled or dead.

Several people around the globe suffer from this disease, doctors and researchers are in the process of finding out the reason for this disease. But more importance is given in finding out a cure. Recently a treatment called as stem cell therapy, has received a lot of attention from the scientific world.There is a lot of research on stem cells its cure, which are showing amazing results.

Recent technological advancement in stem cell research has shown that it is possible to reverse the symptoms of multiple sclerosis with stem cells replacement. As this is still in the laboratory stage some measure of success has been achieved in independent studies conducted at several independent Universities and Research Centers.

In this therapy, stem cells are introduced into the patient’s body. Stem cells are naive (immature) cells which can be extracted from the placenta. They have the ability to form into many several types of cells like skin, bone, eye cells etc., As these are injected into the body they start secreting a growth factor, and these growth factors form new blood cells in the blood vessels.Which are healthy and active, they replace the diseased cells in the patient. These new cells keep on increasing in number until disease causing cells are completely replaced with the healthy cells. This process is far better than any painful surgery or chemotherapy or radio therapy. Furthermore this treatment is cost effective when compared to other treatments and is safe in all the ways, as the patients own stem cells are used in most of the cases i.e they are removed from the patient’s own bone marrow are then injected back into the blood stream.

One of the drawbacks of this treatment is that this technology is not accessible in all parts of the globe mostly in developed countries. One has to travel any one of these countries for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

While the results from this therapy are impressive, the treatment of multiple sclerosis with stem cells is still in its early stages and much research needs to be held. Researchers are in the process to confirm, if the immune system can actually be completely reset or if it is suppressed as a chronic condition. We should be very optimistic that this type of therapy will help those patients in the advanced stages.

MS Treatment: How MS Symptoms Are Managed

Successfully diagnosing and treating multiple sclerosis is a challenge for doctors today. Two different types of MS treatment have evolved to help patients control their illness. These consist of drugs to help them manage their actual symptoms, and drugs that can actually help slow the progression of the disease. Neither form of MS treatment is capable of curing the condition, but both of them can help patients to lead happy lives.

Nobody really knows what causes multiple sclerosis to develop. There is no simple test that can diagnose the illness by itself, and nothing that can predict whether or not someone will develop MS in the future. Instead, doctors rely on interviewing patients and performing neurological exams. If the patients fit certain diagnostic criteria, then they are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. While more advanced imaging techniques have contributed to the success of these diagnostic measures, or understanding (and thus diagnosis) of MS is still not perfect. One thing is for certain, however- MS treatment should be started as soon as multiple sclerosis is diagnosed for patients to achieve the best results.

As MS progresses, the immune system attacks the myelin sheaths that cover nerves. This causes scarring and eventual disintegration of the myelin, which impedes how well the nerves work. As a result, people can suffer from any number of symptoms, depending on which nerves are the most badly affected. Things like pain, muscle spasms, weakness, and fatigue are common. Therefore, adequate multiple sclerosis treatment doesn’t just focus on slowing down the rate at which the body’s myelin becomes damaged; it focuses on helping patients to manage the symptoms of nerve damage that they already have.

Symptom management in multiple sclerosis is a bit complicated. Symptoms are often permanent as a result of nerve damage, but other symptoms may come and go. Symptoms often appear in sudden attacks, but can also appear slowly, over time. Virtually no two cases of multiple sclerosis are alike, so patients’ symptoms generally vary widely, as well. Things like pain killers and antispasmodics can help with physical pain, but things like fatigue, vision problems, and memory problems are a bit more difficult to alleviate.

Not all types of symptom management in MS treatment involve medication, either. Physical therapy can help relieve some pain and weakness, and group therapy can help combat feelings of depression. The key difference between symptom management versus disease modifying MS treatment is that symptom management does not impact how multiple sclerosis progresses. If patients were to use symptom managing therapy alone, they would most likely continue to develop rapidly worsening symptoms.

Disease modifying MS treatment generally relies on different types of immunomodulating medications. As was mentioned previously, MS is an immune condition, where the body begins to attack its own nervous system. There is no cure that can make the immune system permanently stop attacking the body, but science has developed a number of medications that can modify how the immune system responds, reducing the kind of damage it can do. These medications can range from corticosteroids like Prednisone, which is used in MS treatment for acute attacks of symptoms, to interferon beta based medications like Avonex or Betaseron.

These medications reduce inflammation in multiple sclerosis lesions. While steroids aren’t usually for long term use, other immunomodulators can be used long term to help reduce the rate of relapses, repair the blood-brain barrier, and slow down how MS progresses. Many patients see their symptoms improve as the inflammation in their lesions is reduced, but other patients with more severe or long-standing nerve damage may need additional medications to help alleviate their symptoms.

Although drug therapy is extremely effective when used appropriately, there are a couple of reasons why some people choose alternative forms of MS treatment instead of conventional medications like opiates or interferon beta based drugs. The main problem with drug therapy is that there is a high instance of side effects associated with many drugs involved in MS treatment.

Palliative treatments like painkillers can be addictive, and produce withdrawal symptoms when they are discontinued. Immunomodulators frequently cause things like fatigue or flu like symptoms. Many need to be injected weekly, if not daily, and some medications require patients to rotate injection sites to avoid things like scarring or localized fat loss. Steroids also can have severe withdrawal symptoms, and produce a host of negative side effects if they are used for too long. Therefore, proper MS treatment is a careful balance between what medications will produce the best effect while causing the least amount of unwanted side effects.

Maintaining this balance is tricky enough as it is, but many patients undergoing multiple sclerosis treatment find that they end up needing to change medication at some point, which often means that things like dosages and dosing schedules need to be re-worked.

There are some alternative or complementary forms of MS treatment available in addition to conventional therapies. Things like dietary changes, vitamin and mineral supplementation, and even surgery have all been proposed to help patients coping with MS. Many of these are still being researched to determine the extent of their efficacy at combating the condition, but they show great promise as methods of slowing the progression of MS without causing the side effects that conventional medications can. Some patients choose natural therapies over medication, while others choose to complement their regular medication-based MS treatment with natural treatments.

MS treatment is too complicated for a patient to tackle on their own, so it is very important for people with MS to discuss any alternative or complementary treatments with their doctor before they attempt to self-medicate.

In addition to coping with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, it is often absolutely heartbreaking to patients to realize that there is not yet a cure for this disease. Though medical science still has a lot to learn about many different facets of MS, research has developed several different medications that can be effectively used to help people manage their symptoms and slow down how MS progresses. By taking advantage of the many MS treatment options currently available, people suffering from this condition can help improve their quality of life.