Autoimmune diseases may occur when the body's immune system attacks the body's tissues and organs.
A healthy immune system will sufficiently protect the body against pathogens and abnormal cells and tissues. However, when the immune system becomes activated, it attacks the body instead of the outside world. The attack can be both direct and indirect. A direct attack is where the immune system directly attacks the body's tissues and organs. Indirect attacks are where the immune system attacks the body's tissues and organs, such as the joints, the skin, and the digestive tract.
There are over 80 types of autoimmune diseases. However, some are more common than others. These diseases develop when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's tissues and organs. When the immune system is overactive, it can attack healthy cells, tissues, and organs in the body. Conversely, when the immune system is underactive, the body is vulnerable to infectious diseases and other health problems.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), estimate that Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases are present in 1 out of 1200 people, with autoimmune diseases currently affecting 5% of the Australian population.
An autoimmune disease is when your body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells.
The underlying cause of most autoimmune diseases is not yet known. Still, doctors and researchers have identified certain risk factors that are thought to make specific individuals more susceptible to developing an autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune diseases can and do affect multiple organs and systems in the body. They can also be chronic, which means they continue over time and may require treatment for the rest of the person's life.
Autoimmune diseases can be classified as either systemic autoimmune or organ-specific diseases.
Systemic autoimmune diseases are the ones that affect most of the body. The most common symptoms of an autoimmune disorder are joint pain, fatigue, and headaches. If you are experiencing these symptoms, visit your doctor to rule out other diseases before being diagnosed with a systemic autoimmune disease.
Organ-specific autoimmune diseases affect specific organs in your body. The most commonly found symptoms are fatigue, weight loss, and abdominal pain. If you are experiencing these symptoms, visit your doctor to rule out other diseases before being diagnosed with an organ-specific autoimmune disease.
An autoimmune disease may result in:
• Destruction of the body tissue
• Abnormal growth of one or multiple organs
• A change in organ function
An autoimmune disease may affect one or more organs or tissue types. Areas often affected by autoimmune disorders include:
• Blood vessels
• Connective tissues
• Endocrine glands such as the thyroid or pancreas
• Red blood cells
The prevalence of these diseases is on the rise, and there are more than 80 different types and new versions being reported each year.
Some common autoimmune diseases include:
• Type 1 diabetes (Attacks the pancreatic cells)
• Rheumatoid arthritis (Attacks the joints)
• Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis (Overproduction of the skin cells)
• Multiple sclerosis (Targets the Myelin sheath of the nerves)
• Inflammatory bowel disease (lining of the intestinal wall)
• Ankylosing spondylitis
Who Is More Likely To Suffer From An Autoimmune Disease?
While many people develop an autoimmune disease without any identifiable cause, There are patterns of prevalence in some specific groups of people.
According to the Global Autoimmune Institute, there are 7 definitive risk factors, which include:
• Being female- 78% of people affected by the autoimmune disease are female
• Having a genetic family history of autoimmune disease
• Having an existing autoimmune disease
• Being obese
• Being exposed to certain environmental toxic irritants and smoking
• Certain medications such as blood pressure medications or antibiotics
• Infections such as Covid-19 and Group A Strep
The more significant number of genes originating from the X chromosome creates a greater risk for women. Women genetically have two X chromosomes (XX), whereas men only have one (XY). This puts women at a higher risk for developing autoimmune diseases solely due to having two x chromosomes, while men possess only one.
Everyone with an autoimmune disease will feel the symptoms differently, depending on their condition and where it affects them. It is also possible that symptoms may change over time as the disease progresses or treatment begins to take effect. Therefore, it is essential to talk to a medical professional about any changes in your symptoms or other concerns.
One symptom that most people with autoimmune diseases experience is that their symptoms seem to come and go. This pattern is usually referred to as flares and remissions. During a flare, your symptoms are likely to be the worst they have ever been. At other times, you may feel no symptoms at all.
Many factors influence the length and pattern of your symptoms. These include your type of autoimmune disease, age, health, and lifestyle.
The first symptoms of many autoimmune disorders often have the same hallmarks, such as:
• Varying levels of fatigue
• Aching and tired muscles
• Localised swelling and redness
• Fever, usually at a low level, often continually
• Trouble with concentration and thought clarity
• Numbness and tingling in the extremities
• Hair thinning or hair loss
• Skin inconsistencies, such as rashes
The daily challenges of living with an autoimmune disease can be overwhelming at times. From handling daily pain to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, there are many obstacles that you may face as you navigate this unpredictable journey.
Individual diseases may also have their individual symptoms. For example, type 1 diabetes may cause extreme thirst, weight loss, and fatigue. IBD causes stomach pain, cramping, and diarrhea.
Common symptoms include:
When your body fights a chronic, autoimmune disease, it is in a constant state of 'fight or flight', meaning that your sympathetic nervous system is constantly activated, leading to fatigue. Additionally, when your immune system is constantly working to fight autoimmune disease, it can become overworked and exhausting, leading to even more fatigue.
There are many possible reasons why achy muscles may be a common symptom of an autoimmune disease. One possibility is that the immune system may be attacking healthy cells and tissues in the body, leading to inflammation and pain. Additionally, autoimmune diseases can cause problems with blood circulation, which may also contribute to muscle pain. Finally, some autoimmune diseases can cause fatigue, leading to muscle pain and stiffness.
Chronic systemic inflammation in these conditions may result from a dysregulated immune response. When activated for too long, immune cells can become dysfunctional, leading to an increase in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines act as messengers between immune cells and impact the rest of the body, causing systemic inflammation and triggering disease symptoms.
Poor circulation is often linked to aging, but it can also signify an underlying health problem. For example, people with diabetes may have poor blood flow to the legs, leading to numbness, tingling, or pain in the feet. Poor blood flow can also signify a more serious health condition, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or clogged arteries.
There are many reasons why someone with an autoimmune disease may experience mobility difficulties. One reason is that the inflammation caused by the disease can lead to joint pain and stiffness, making it challenging to move around comfortably. Additionally, some autoimmune diseases can cause nerve damage, making it difficult to move.
Regular water exercise programs can help ease the symptoms of an autoimmune disease. Hydrostatic pressure helps reduce inflammation in the body, while buoyancy ensures it won't put too much stress on your body.
Water exercise is easy to do, and it can be the best option for people with autoimmune diseases who experience constant or fluctuating symptoms. It also releases mood-boosting hormones that can help you feel better.
The Benefits of Water Therapy for Autoimmune Diseases
Here is how water therapy can help some of the most common symptoms of autoimmune disease:
Water Therapy can help reduce inflammation
Exercising in water has anti-inflammatory properties and can ease symptoms of an autoimmune disorder, such as rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. In addition, water can reduce pain and stiffness by increasing blood flow and reducing swelling.
Water Therapy can help with extreme fatigue
Those who suffer from autoimmune diseases will undoubtedly benefit from the reduced gravity in water and the increased warmth of the water. In addition, exercising in water is kind to the body and has a low impact on the joints and bones. Water also provides resistance to movement to strengthen your muscles without increasing the risk of injury that can happen when fatigued. These elements can help reduce fatigue by not exacerbating it further and enabling exercise to strengthen and rejuvenate the mind and body.
Water Therapy can help with muscle aches
The water provides resistance, which can help build strength, and the warmth of the water can help relax muscles and reduce pain. Additionally, the water can help to massage the muscles and improve circulation further, relieving muscle aches and pain.
Water Therapy can help improve circulation
Water-based exercises are often recommended to people suffering from an autoimmune disorder. When you exercise in water, your body is supported by the water, which takes away some of the strain. The hydrostatic pressure significantly improves blood flow and circulation within your body. The movements you make while exercising in water also help to improve circulation.
Water Therapy can help reduce mobility pain
Water can help with increasing pain-free mobility. People with autoimmune diseases may find that joints and muscles stiffen up or have high pain levels, particularly when moving on land. Warm water loosens the muscles and joints and enables pain-free movement.
Hydrostatic pressure is the amount of pressure applied to your body when you're submerged in water. Hydrostatic pressure when exercising in water can ease joint pain and stiffness, reduce stress, improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and relieve muscle tension.
An Aqua Bike is a hydrotherapy innovation that can help alleviate inflammation and autoimmune symptoms. It also enables pain-free exercise.
Water Resist customers training on AquaBikes have seen a significant reduction in symptoms and the pain associated with autoimmune diseases. The intense cycling motion of the Aqua Bike equipment and the speed of the Hydrorider flywheel intensifies the hydrotherapy benefit of hydrostatic pressure. The hydrostatic pressure created by the water and equipment amplifies and speeds up the reduction of inflammation, stiffness, and pain in the body.
We recommend working with your specialist to measure your inflammation markers quarterly to track your inflammation reduction. The frequency of water cycling drastically improves the results for autoimmune diseases with high levels of inflammation. We recommend 3-5 sessions of at least 30mins a week to reduce flare-ups. Once symptoms are under control, the number of sessions can reduce to 2 times per week. For some autoimmune diseases, we need slightly deeper immersion in the water. For example, Rheumatoid arthritis requires full-body inflammation reduction as it is common for a Rheumatoid flare-up to shift from one part of the body to another. Aks Spondylitis affects the back and hips and requires slightly deeper water levels.
Water has many properties, which may help reduce pain and discomfort. Aqua cycling reduces stress on joints and muscles, often the sites of pain and inflammation in people with autoimmune diseases. The support of the seat and buoyancy of the water reduces stress on joints, which may be helpful for people who struggle with weight-bearing exercises.
An Aqua Treadmill is a piece of aquatic equipment that can also support symptom relief and manageability of an autoimmune disease. It can help decrease the discomfort levels in the body, which is especially helpful if stressors seem to make your symptoms worse.
When you move in water, your muscles contract and push blood through your veins and arteries. Additionally, the buoyant nature of the water helps to take pressure off of your joints, which can also help to improve circulation. It also improves blood flow, which can be especially helpful if you have symptoms like cold or blue fingers or toes.
Aqua walking is also great for increasing your overall fitness, which can help you feel stronger and more confident and give you more energy for your daily tasks and living with an auto immune disease. Water provides resistance against the body's movements, which helps improve muscle strength and endurance. Additionally, the water temperature can affect the nervous system positively.
Note: Please seek medical advice before exercising & always train under the advice your medical specialist.