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Autoimmune Disease Information

Monday, October 11, 2010 @ 01:10 PM Karen Jean Matsko Hood

Dr. James G. Hood and his partners at Dental Care Associates of Spokane Valley, P.S. provide dental care treatment to patients with autoimmune diseases.  James G. Hood, D.D.S. has a special and personal interest in dental health and wellness for people with autoimmune diseases since he, his family members, and friends have been afflicted with various autoimmune diseases.  Please call our office at 509-928-9100 if we can be of any assistance.

Dental Health and Nutrition Store provides home health care products, information books, and nutritional supplies for people that have autoimmune diseases.  We will be adding more products in the future so bookmark our site and come back often.

Autoimmune diseases arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body.  In other words, the body attacks its own cells. The immune system mistakes some part of the body as a pathogen and attacks it.  This may be restricted to certain organs (e.g. as in chagas disease) or involve a particular tissue in different places (e.g. Goodpasture’s disease which may affect the basement membrane in both the lung and the kidney).  The treatment of autoimmune diseases is typically with immunosuppression—medication which decreases the immune response.

There is an on-going discussion about when a disease should be considered autoimmune, leading to different criteria such as Witebsky’s postulates.  According to T. Colin Campbell in his book The China Study, Chapter 9, one of the main causes for autoimmune diseases exists in our diet: molecular mimicry between some animal and human proteins may cause the immune system (the white blood cells) to attack our own cells.  In particular, Campbell mentions the inability of some persons’ digestive system to fully break down cow’s milk into amino acids.  Other researches cite many other specific foods or food groups that may trigger autoimmune reactions.  The remnants of these proteins are treated as foreign invader antigens by the immune system, which may then turn against other forms of closely similar proteins in our body.

In both autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, the condition arises through aberrant reactions of the human adaptive or innate immune systems.  In autoimmunity, the patient’s immune system is activated against the body’s own proteins.  In inflammatory diseases, it is the overreaction of the immune system, and its subsequent downstream signaling (TNF, IFN, etc), which causes problems.

A substantial minority of the population suffers from these diseases, which are often chronic, debilitating, and life-threatening.  There are more than eighty illnesses caused by autoimmunity. It has been estimated that autoimmune diseases are among the ten leading causes of death among women in all age groups up to 65 years.

Currently, a considerable amount of research is being conducted into treatment of these conditions.  According to a report from Frost & Sullivan, the total payouts by an alliance of leading pharmaceutical companies for drug discovery contract research in the autoimmune/inflammation segment from 1997 to 2002 totaled $489.8 million, where Eli Lilly, Suntory, Procter & Gamble, Encysive, and Novartis together account for 98.6 percent of payouts by that alliance.

Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases: The symptoms of autoimmune diseases vary depending on the disease as well as the person’s immune system.  Common symptoms include: inflammation, fatigue, dizziness, malaise, elevated fever and high body temperature, extreme sensitivity to cold in the hands and feet, weakness and stiffness in muscles and joints, weight changes, digestive or gastrointestinal problems, low or high blood pressure, irritability, anxiety, or depression, infertility or reduced sex drive (low libido), blood sugar changes.  Depending on the type of autoimmune disease, an increase in the size of an organ or tissue or the destruction of an organ or tissue can result.

Dr. Hood’s wife, Karen Jean Matsko Hood, has suffered with Achalasia, an autoimmune disease, and thus, he is keenly aware of the symptoms and progress and wanted to offer helpful aids and products on this site.

Achalasia, also known as esophageal achalasia, achalasia cardiae, cardiospasm, and esophageal aperistalsis, is an esophageal motility disorder involving the smooth muscle layer of the esophagus and the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).  It is characterized by incomplete LES relaxation, increased LES tone, and aperistalsis of the esophagus (inability of smooth muscle to move food down the esophagus) in the absence of other explanations like cancer or fibrosis.

Achalasia is characterized by difficulty swallowing, regurgitation, and sometimes chest pain. Diagnosis is reached with esophageal manometry and barium swallow radiographic studies. Various treatments are available, although none cure the condition. Certain medications or Botox may be used in some cases, but more permanent relief is brought by esophageal dilatation and surgical cleaving of the muscle (Heller myotomy).

The most common form is primary achalasia, which has no known underlying cause. It is due to the failure of distal esophageal inhibitory neurons. However, a small proportion occurs secondary to other conditions, such as esophageal cancer or Chagas disease (an infectious disease common in South America). Achalasia affects about one person in 100,000 per year.

Please visit our Achalasia Blog at

Dr. James G. Hood himself has Sjogren’s Disease.

Sjögren’s Syndrome (also known as “Mikulicz disease” and “Sicca syndrome”) is an autoimmune disorder in which immune cells attack and destroy the exocrine glands that produce tears and saliva.

It is named after Swedish ophthalmologist Henrik Sjögren (1899–1986) who first described it.

Nine out of ten Sjögren’s patients are women and the average age of onset is late 40s, although Sjögren’s occurs in all age groups in both women and men.  It is estimated to strike as many as 4 million people in the United States alone making it the second most common autoimmune rheumatic disease.

Sjögren’s Syndrome can exist as a disorder in its own right (Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome) or it may develop years after the onset of an associated rheumatic disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, primary biliary cirrhosis etc. (Secondary Sjögren’s Syndrome).

An autoantigen is alpha-Fodrin.

It should not be confused with the Sjögren–Larsson syndrome, also denoted T. Sjögren syndrome in early studies.  Dr. James G. Hood has helped patients with symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome.

Signs and Symptoms

The hallmark symptoms of the disorder are dry mouth and dry eyes (part of what are known as sicca symptoms). In addition, Sjögren’s syndrome may cause skin, nose, and vaginal dryness, and may affect other organs of the body, including the kidneys, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, peripheral nervous system (distal axonal sensorimotor neuropathy) and brain.

Sjögren’s syndrome causes increased levels of IL-1RA in CSF suggesting increased activity in the interleukin 1 system and that this is associated with increased fatigue through cytokine induced sickness behavior. Patients with secondary Sjögren’s syndrome also have signs and symptoms associated with rheumatic disorder. Many patients also have IBS symptoms due to slow gastric transit.

Diagnosis of Sjogren’s Syndrome

Diagnosing Sjögren’s syndrome is complicated by the range of symptoms a patient may manifest, and the similarity between symptoms from Sjögren’s syndrome and those caused by other conditions. Nevertheless, the combination of several tests can lead to a diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome.

Blood tests can be done to determine if a patient has high levels of antibodies that are indicative of the condition, such as anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) and rheumatoid factor (because SS frequently occurs secondary to rheumatoid arthritis), which are associated with autoimmune diseases.  Typical Sjögren’s syndrome ANA patterns are SSA/Ro and SSB/La, of which SSB/La is far more specific; SSA/Ro is associated with numerous other autoimmune conditions but are often present in Sjögren’s.  Please visit our Sjogren’s Blog at

Dental care

Preventive dental treatment is also necessary (and often overlooked by the patient), as the lack of saliva associated with xerostomia (dry mouth) creates an ideal environment for the proliferation of bacteria that cause dental caries (cavities).  Treatments include at-home topical fluoride application to strengthen tooth enamel and frequent teeth cleanings by a dental hygienist.  Existing cavities must also be treated, as cavities that extend into the tooth can not be effectively treated through teeth cleaning alone, and are at a high risk of spreading into the pulp of the tooth, leading to the loss of vitality and need for extraction or root canal therapy.  This treatment regimen is the same as that used for all xerostomia patients, such as those undergoing head and neck radiation therapy which often damages the salivary glands, as they are more susceptible to radiation than other body tissues.

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