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Why Does My Doctor Call RA an Autoimmune Disease?

What Triggers Autoimmune Diseases? continued...

You may be more likely than the average person to get an autoimmune disorder. While another person might get an infection and get better, the same infection might trigger the inflammation inside your body that leads to the disease, Peyman says.

For example, researchers are studying super-tiny living things called microbes in your gut, mouth, and on your skin. They may work more closely with the immune system than people thought, Ladd says. If they're out of balance, it may trigger your immune system and make more inflammation.

Other possible triggers include pesticides and smoking, she says. Hormones also probably play a role, since autoimmune diseases are much more common in women than in men.

What Are the Treatments?

Medicine and lifestyle changes can often control symptoms and slow these diseases.

Medication. Many drugs can now treat RA and other autoimmune disorders. Some are used for pain relief. Others target inflammation. Early treatment with drugs like these may be the best way to prevent joint damage. See your doctor to talk about your options.

Lifestyle choices. While you can’t change your genes, you can sometimes change how you live. That can help your treatment work better.

Even if you don’t have an autoimmune disease, but you think you might be at risk, these steps may help lower your chances.

To fight inflammation:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Lower your stress. Try techniques like deep breathing or meditation. Or find a hobby you enjoy. Strengthen your relationships, too. Peyman says research shows that lonely people tend to have more inflammation in their bodies.
  • Don't get too much sun.
  • Exercise.
  • Avoid foods that boost inflammation. A nutritionist can tell you what those might be and how to cut them in a healthy way.
  • Choose foods that lower inflammation, like ones that have a lot of omega-3 healthy fats. Salmon and enriched dairy foods or eggs are options.
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Reviewed on June 09, 2015

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