Rheum with a view - Perspectives on Rheumatologic conditions

March 10, 2017
Source: Dr. Dzifa Dey | thebftonline.com | Ghana
Rheum with a view - Perspectives on Rheumatologic conditions

Autoimmune diseases - when the body fights itself (Part2).  - 

Symptoms and signs:

This would depend on the organ affected, but common symptoms include:

Malaise, fatigue, rashes, hair loss, febrile illness, recurrent miscarriages, visual impairment, joint swellings or pain, memory loss, limb weakness, strokes.


This depends on:

  • Accurate history of the illness
  • Physical examination by the doctor
  • High index of suspicion


It is important to understand that there is no particular test (with a result that is either positive or negative) that can confirm or deny a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. The doctor must take into account the patient’s entire medical history and all of the other signs and symptoms being experienced. This would be varied probable depending onthe system involved.

Tests include:

Full blood counts, kidney function tests, thyroid function tests, blood sugar levels.

When you have an autoimmune disease, your body produces antibodies against some of your own tissues. Diagnosing an autoimmune disease involves identifying which antibodies your body is producing.

The following tests are used to diagnose an autoimmune disease:

Antinuclear antibody tests (ANA)—a type of autoantibody test that looks for antinuclear antibodies, which attack the nuclei of cells in your body

Autoantibody tests—other serological assays are antibody tests used for diagnosis and are unfortunately quite expensive locally in Ghana.

Imaging tests including x-rays, Ctscans and MRI scans.

Biopsies: that is taking of a piece of tissue for those with local or a particular organ involvement.


There is currently no cure for these chronic autoimmune conditions. Controlling the progression of the disease and decreasing the symptoms, especially during periods of increased activity are the main goals of treatment and disease management. If you have an autoimmune disease, you and your doctor will have to work together to create a plan to manage your symptoms.

Treatment methods depend on the disease, but in most cases one main goal that is common to most autoimmune diseases is the reduction of inflammation.

The treatment of autoimmune diseases is typically with immunosuppressive medications, which are used to reduce the hyperactive immune reaction.

These immune modulatory  drugs include  steroids,  Cytotoxic  drugs which include low doses of chemotherapeutic drugs  like methotrexate and newer more targeted immune modulators called biologics e.g. Rituximab, TNF inhibitors etc.

Non immune therapy are used to replace for example certain hormones lost due loss of function of a gland for example thyroxine in thyroid disease, insulin in type 1 diabetes.

Anti inflammatory and analgesics e.g. NSAIDS for pain. These diseases are long term or chronic diseases and a multidisciplinary approach to treatment is crucial involving counselors, physiotherapists,Occupational therapists etc.

How do you prevent or control disease activity?

  • Drink water to stay hydrated
  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet
  • Get regular and gentle exercise
  • Make sure that you are well rested
  • Take vitamin supplements such as vitamin D (please consult your physician before taking any herbal supplements as they could interfere with the efficacy of any other prescribed medications)
  • Decrease stress
  • Get physical therapy as needed to improve movement and reduce joint stiffness
  • Limit sun exposure for those with photosensitivity
  • Learn to understand and avoid any known triggers of flare-ups (increases in disease activity)

Now that you know, why don’t you save a life and spread the awareness.

Lets tRi together


The writer is a Physician Specialist & Rheumatologist

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