Women and Autoimmune Disease [NOOK Book]


A cutting-edge examination of the mysterious world of autoimmune disease—and the new discoveries made daily that may save women's lives

Autoimmune diseases—including chronic fatigue syndrome, vasculitis, juvenile diabetes, alopecia, Graves' disease, Sjogren's syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis—are among the most devastating conditions afflicting women today and the most resistant to diagnosis and treatment. In all of them, the body's immune system ...

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Women and Autoimmune Disease

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A cutting-edge examination of the mysterious world of autoimmune disease—and the new discoveries made daily that may save women's lives

Autoimmune diseases—including chronic fatigue syndrome, vasculitis, juvenile diabetes, alopecia, Graves' disease, Sjogren's syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis—are among the most devastating conditions afflicting women today and the most resistant to diagnosis and treatment. In all of them, the body's immune system begins to attack healthy and normally functioning cells. And one of the biggest puzzles is why 80 percent of autoimmune disease sufferers are women. In this groundbreaking book, world-class immunologist Dr. Robert Lahita brings years of intensive research, patient care, and diagnostics to shed light on the mysteries of these conditions, with a particular focus on how they affect—and how he treats—women.

Through case studies, he reveals the early warning signs, symptoms, diagnostic processes, and the most innovative treatments for all the most common—and many of the less well known—autoimmune diseases. He offers a scientifically sound and sensitive work that is the best resource available to help understand these perplexing and debilitating diseases.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lahita, a doctor who wrote the textbook on autoimmune disease for medical professionals, as well as a layperson's book on rheumatoid arthritis , concentrates here on how autoimmune diseases afflict women, who make up 75% of cases nationwide. A healthy immune system defends the body from antigens such as viruses and bacteria. But sometimes the immune system erroneously attacks healthy cells, leading to autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis and vasculitis. Lahita, aided by medical writer Yalof, draws on research and case studies to identify 16 conditions that have been categorized as autoimmune diseases (he includes chronic fatigue syndrome, though its cause remains uncertain) and describes at length the symptoms, causes and possible treatments for these debilitating ailments. Treatment is complicated, according to Lahita, since patients are often diagnosed too late because their complex symptoms mimic those of other conditions. A patient with vasculitis, for example, was first thought to have meningitis. This clearly written text should be extremely useful to people with these difficult ailments, their families and caregivers. Lahita, however, is suspicious of alternative herbal or homeopathic therapies, which he says have not been scientifically found to be effective. Agent, Barbara Lowenstein. (Aug. 20) Forecast: There is a very large potential audience for this book on a subject not much written about for general readers. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Autoimmunologist Lahita (New York Medical Coll.; Lupus: Everything You Need To Know) here argues that autoimmune diseases are a special threat to women. After overviews of the immune system and autoimmune diseases, he and medical writer Yalof look at 15 wide-ranging diseases via a patient scenario, symptoms/ features, diagnosis, theories of causation, treatment, and future research, including juvenile diabetes and multiple sclerosis. One chapter deals with fibromyalgia and syndromes that, although not technically autoimmune diseases, often travel with them. Part 3, meanwhile, discusses treatments, with chapters on drugs and complementary and alternative therapies (Lahita supports some complementary therapy but adamantly opposes using alternative treatments as substitutes for conventional medicine). Curiously, he does not broach the financial burden of these treatments, even though he says his goal is to influence legislators and powerful people. Despite the use of real patient cases to provide a dramatic, human element, this authoritative book may challenge lay readers. Overall, however, it is an effective portrayal of the frustrations of diagnosing and treating these serious and variable diseases. Highly recommended for all consumer health collections. Lisa McCormick, Jewish Hosp. Health Sciences Lib., Cincinnati Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061736957
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 382,005
  • File size: 691 KB

Meet the Author

Robert G. Lahita, M.D., Ph.D., is a professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical School and chairman of medicine and vice president of the Jersey City Medical Center. He was the chairman of the conference committee of the New York Academy of Sciences and has been elected a fellow of the American College of Physicians, the American College of Rheumatology, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Royal College of Physicians in London. The Textbook of Autoimmunity, which he edited, is the seminal work on the subject for medical professionals, and he is also the editor of the recently published fourth edition of the standard textbook Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. He has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Today, and Regis & Kelly. Named one of New York magazine's Best Doctors in New York for the last five consecutive years, he lives in Ridgewood, New Jersey, with his family.

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Read an Excerpt

Women and Autoimmune Disease

Chapter One

Part One: What Is an Autoimmune Disease?

For most of us who go about the everyday tasks of work, shopping, or life in general, the immune system does not seem particularly remarkable. Why would it be? Few movies of the week have been made about it. There are no weekend telethons on its behalf. It does not have a star such as Britney Spears anxious to attach her name to it, nor does Katie Couric remind us to have it checked every year, or two, or five.

No, it is just there, doing its job of protecting us from the, oh, say 5 or 6 billion molecules of viruses, bacteria, parasites, pollutants, and germs to which we open our doors—not to mention our mouths— every single day of our lives. When things are going smoothly, we are all a bit guilty of a laissez-faire attitude about the immune system. Ah, but let something go awry and watch out! Now it has our attention.

And well it should.

We cannot live, at least not very well, without our immune systems. The immune system is the body's natural defense mechanism against the attackers I have cited above—as well as many as-yet-unknown microbes that would love nothing more than to climb inside and set up shop all over our bodies. To get a good sense of the might of this silent but hardworking system, consider what happens to something living once it dies: Within minutes, everything shuts down; within hours the process of decomposition sets in, and long before sunset, the body is completely taken over by all sorts of unwelcome visitors. I need not go further. You get the picture.

If you are in any way concerned about autoimmunedisease—and I suspect you are if you're reading this book—it is essential that you understand the basic workings of the healthy immune system. This chapter explains it, but be forewarned; in large part, it will be a vocabulary lesson. Many of the terms I use here are repeated throughout the book, so it is helpful to understand them from the first. I do promise this, however: To the extent that it is possible to illustrate things clearly otherwise, I will not burden you with so much as an extraneous microbe.

Central to the workings of the immune system is its ability to distinguish between what is “us” and what is “not us,” hereafter known as self and nonself. Every cell in the body carries distinctive molecules that distinguish it as “self.” When foreign—“nonself”—molecules enter the body, if they trigger an immune reaction, they are known as antigens (against self).

Antigens can come from outside the body or may actually exist as part of the body itself. An external antigen could be a bacterium, a virus, or a parasite, for example. Tissues or cells from other humans, such as those introduced during a heart or lung transplant, also are recognized as antigens, which is why, without strong drugs to suppress the immune system, the body rejects transplanted organs. As soon as the immune system recognizes an antigen in the bloodstream, it responds by producing antibodies, which are molecules designed to counteract the antigen and render it impotent. The process of creating an antibody upon recognition of an antigen is known as an immune response.

For an example of an internal antigen, there are times when the im- mune system suddenly turns on the hair follicles, mistakenly recognizing them as foreign and makes antibodies against them. This constitutes an autoimmune response that can result in an autoimmune disease called alopecia areata universalis, or complete loss of hair. The hair follicle itself has become the antigen and is now called an autoantigen. Why cells in the body that heretofore coexisted in peace suddenly become the enemy, no one knows.

The organs that comprise the immune system include the bone marrow, the lymph nodes, the thymus, and the spleen. These organs are connected to each other and to other organs of the body by way of the lymphatic vessels, a network that courses throughout the body in a manner similar to the blood vessels.

The bone marrow serves as the factory that produces, among other things, the white blood cell (also known as leukocytes) a collection of different kinds of cells, such as polymorphonuclear leukocytes (phagocytes), monocytes, and lymphocytes. They are considered the backbone of the immune system, and many of them are described below.

The lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that contain filter tissue and work as the clearinghouse for germs and foreign invaders. They are the place where the immune cells face off with antigens. Using a police force as an analogy for the immune system, you might consider the lymph nodes as police precincts that are strategically placed in various parts of the body where the immune system has to be on high alert—for example, the tonsils, the ears, the mouth, the genitals, or any area where there might be an invasion of a foreign substance or a foreign germ. When fighting a bacterial infection, for example, the nodes are the battleground for bacteria and the immune cells that are fighting them. The result of this influx of cells and cell activity is a swollen lymph node, which is a good predictor that an infection exists.

The thymus, which is located in the middle of the chest under the breastbone and below the thyroid gland, is the master programmer of the immune system. Interestingly, the thymus usually disappears by Organs of the Immune System... Women and Autoimmune Disease. Copyright © by Robert Lahita. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xi
Part 1 What is an Autoimmune Disease?
1 The Immune System: First Line of Defense 3
2 Autoimmune Diseases 18
Part 2 The Autoimmune Diseases
3 The Antiphospholipid Syndrome: Sticky Blood 37
4 Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura: Murder in the Village: The Case of the Homicidal Antibody 51
5 Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes: When Sweetness Falls from Grace 61
6 Multiple Sclerosis: Electricity without Insulation 74
7 Pandas: The Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome 88
8 Streptococcal Infection and Rheumatic Fever: A Bacterial Mime 97
9 Vasculitis: Destroyed Pipes 105
10 Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: The Red Wolf 116
11 Alopecia Universalis: Bald All Over 132
12 Sjogren's Syndrome: Dry as a Desert 143
13 Autoimmune Thyroid Disease: Disabling the Body's Nuclear Reactor 155
14 Autoimmune Disease of the Liver: Lucky Woman Thrown by a Horse 161
15 Scleroderma: The Woman with Thick Skin 168
16 Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis: Ragged Fibers 182
17 Rheumatoid Arthritis: Like Swimming through a Bowl of Jell-O 190
18 Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Silicone Implant Syndrome: The Mystery Diseases 203
Part 3 Treatments
19 Drugs and Other Therapies: Harnessing the Immune System 215
20 Alternative and Complementary Therapies: From Acupuncture to Zinc 236
Glossary 257
Suggested Reading 267
Helpful Organizations 273
Index 275
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 10 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Hard to find well written books on the subject! This is the best of atleast a dozen I've read!

    I have to date seven autoimmune diseases and have read more than a dozen books on the subject/s this is the best one I've read! Clear, concise, user-friendly and sooo well written. Dr. Lahita is amazing,I hope to get an appointment to visit him soon.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    Really Helpful

    I have a difficult to treat undifferentiated inflammatory arthritic condition. This book has helped and I am very medically savvy

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