Autoimmune Disorders Center

Autoimmune Disorder Screening

Diagnosing an autoimmune disease can be a long process. Autoimmune disorders of all types share similar physical symptoms while also being unique entities.

There is a long and varied list of autoimmune disorders, some of which are listed below:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Grave's disease
  • Scleoderma
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/Lou Gehrig's disease
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Celiac disease/Sprue
  • Vasculitis
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis

The Diagnostician

Autoimmune disorders affect many different areas of the body therefore require a variety of physician specialists to accurately diagnose and treat the many physical symptoms. Here are some of the many specialists and the autoimmune conditions they treat:

  • Primary care physician: The coordinator of the care and treatment plan for the patient
  • Nephrologist: Treats kidney problems, as with lupus
  • Rheumatologist: Treats arthritis symptoms, scleroderma and lupus
  • Endocrinologist: Cares for patients with thyroid, diabetes and other diseases involving hormones and glands
  • Neurologist: Deals with diagnoses dealing with nerves like multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis and ALS
  • Dermatologist: Cares for disorders affecting the skin like with lupus

The Diagnostic Tests

The diagnostic testing for autoimmune disorders are fairly limited in scope. The primary indicator for an autoimmune disorder lies in antibody blood testing.

  1. Physical examination: A complete physical examination by a primary care physician (PCP) will begin the diagnostic process.
  2. Laboratory tests: Antinuclear antibody test, Autoantibody test, C-reactive protein (CRP), Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate)
  3. Other diagnostic studies that can be helpful, in specific cases: Lumbar puncture to analyze cerebrospinal fluid, Electromyogram (EMG) to measure nerve and muscle activity, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to evaluate brain structure and anatomy

One important point of which to be aware is that elevated antibody levels can be the sign of a common infection in the body. It is the responsibility of the ordering physician to rule out an infection before proceeding with an autoimmune disorder diagnosis.

Treatment Options

Depending upon the screening test results, a treatment plan will be developed. There are many options available, keeping in mind that an autoimmune disorder is a chronic condition that is symptomatically treated, not cured.

Drug therapy can include:

  • Corticosteroids like Prednisone to reduce the inflammatory process.
  • Immunosuppressant drugs like Methotrexate to stop the cells from reproducing and causing further damage.

Alternative therapies sometimes include: acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbal treatments and hypnosis.

The main goal of treating all autoimmune disorders is to reduce the symptoms and keep the patient comfortable, control the progression of the disorder and maintain the patient's ability to naturally fight any exposure to potential antigens. Working collaboratively with the PCP and involved specialists in developing a comprehensive plan of care will offer the patient a variety of treatment options.

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