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Your body’s immune system is an intricately designed network of cells that protect your body against bacteria and unhealthy cells. When working properly, the immune system does wonders to keep you healthy. However, like anything in the human body, the immune system can stop working properly. When your immune system begins attacking your own body rather than genuine threats, you’re experiencing a condition known as an autoimmune disease.

Approximately 23.5 million Americans live with an autoimmune disease of some type. Women are slightly more likely to develop autoimmune diseases, but this condition is no less serious for men. Understanding what autoimmune diseases look like and how to treat them will go a long way toward helping you manage your long-term health.

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Common Autoimmune Diseases in Men

Certain types of autoimmune conditions develop more frequently in women than in men. However, men aren’t immune to these conditions. Several common autoimmune diseases in both sexes include:

  • Celiac disease
  • Autoimmune vasculitis
  • Addison’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Lupus
  • Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Pernicious anemia

Symptoms

Because each condition is different and every person’s body responds differently to health problems, your symptoms may not match the standard list exactly. However, a few symptoms appear to be universal. You may be developing an autoimmune condition if you notice the following symptoms in yourself:

  • Skin discoloration or rashes
  • Cuts or bruises that form easily
  • Swollen glands
  • Pain and/or swelling in the joints
  • Recurring fever
  • Near-constant fatigue
  • Stomach pain
  • Digestive issues (particularly in cases of diabetes or celiac disease)
  • Difficulty controlling muscle contractions
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Numbness in the limbs

Treating Autoimmune Diseases

Researchers don’t know how to precisely predict if your immune system will attack your body instead of true enemies. Some risk factors, such as genetics, are unalterable. If your symptoms result from side effects of medication, you may be able to switch to a different variety, but there’s no guarantee it will help.

Certain risk factors, however, are definitely in your control. Excess body weight, smoking, nutrition deficiency, and untreated health problems can all increase your risk of developing an autoimmune disease at some point. Your doctor will help you form healthy habits to manage the risk factors you can control. Your treatment plan may include:

  • Immune system suppression
  • Health-focused eating
  • Fitness regimen
  • Medicine for symptoms or related diseases
  • Treatment of other health conditions that could put you at greater risk

Sadly, no cure yet exists for autoimmune diseases. But under a doctor’s supervision, conscious lifestyle changes can help keep your symptoms under control and allow you to lead a fulfilling life.

Pro Tip: Immune system suppressants are necessary for autoimmune patients, but they do increase your risk of getting sick. Take extra care to protect yourself against viruses and bacteria if you take these medicines.

The Best Long-Term Solution

If you develop an autoimmune disease or are at risk to develop one, the best course of action is to consult with your doctor about your options. You may have to change your diet or go on certain medications to temper your symptoms. However, the responsibility for change rests on your shoulders. You can’t completely cure an autoimmune condition. However, with conscious lifestyle changes and healthy choices, you can reduce your symptoms and still lead a happy life.

Join the conversation to learn more about successfully managing an autoimmune disease.