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Glossary: From Diabetes to Scleroderma to Thyroiditis

March 26, 2001|From Newsday

Diabetes (Type 1): A syndrome in which the immune system gradually destroys the insulin-making beta cells on the pancreas. Result is loss of blood-sugar control. Can be fatal if not treated, but is controllable with regular insulin injections.

Graves' disease: Referred to as acute toxic goiter, this is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. It is a chronic disorder with remissions and relapses. It is also sometimes seen with other autoimmune disorders, as well as premature graying of the hair and pernicious anemia. There are frequently vision problems, plus other glandular abnormalities.

Lupus erythematosus: A disorder of the connective tissue that can strike in the joints, kidneys and blood-vessel walls. About 90% of the cases are in women, and the severity varies widely. Lupus often begins abruptly, with fever, or it can develop slowly over many months, or even years. Painful arthritis is a major symptom, and there can be skin abnormalities on the face, neck and upper chest, and some hair loss. Symptoms can also include pleurisy, and kidney failure can be fatal.

Multiple sclerosis: A disorder in which cells of the immune system begin destroying myelin, the insulating protein that surrounds nerve fibers. MS progresses intermittently. The patient loses muscular control and may need to use a wheelchair. Life span is usually not shortened, except in the most severe cases.

Scleroderma: A skin condition caused by blood-vessel abnormalities, leading to gradual thickening of the skin, such as on the fingers, and sometimes most of the body. As disease progresses, skin becomes taut, shiny and strongly pigmented. There can also be functional problems with the esophagus. Lung and heart problems, including heart failure, are also seen.

Sjogren's syndrome: A chronic problem that involves dryness of the mouth, eyes, and mucous membranes in general. Arthritis is seen in one-third of cases. Dryness may also develop in the skin, and dryness in the respiratory system may lead to infections and pneumonia. There is also increased risk of lymphoma.

Thyroiditis: Caused by inflammation of the thyroid gland, and thought to be the most common form of hypothyroidism. Its incidence increases with age, and a family history of the disorder is common. Patients feel a "fullness" in the throat and may have other autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren's syndrome and diabetes.

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