First of all, autoinflammatory diseases are not the same as autoimmune diseases. However, they are very similar. They both come from malfunctioning of the immune system due to which the defense mechanisms inside the body attack the healthy tissue in the body. This causes excessive inflammation which becomes omnipresent since the tissue that is wrongly seen as a problem by the immune system is naturally present in the body.
Autoinflammatory diseases most often include joint swelling, fever and rash and also pain sometimes. All of these come from very intense inflammation that is caused by the immune system. Most of the autoinflammatory diseases can lead to amyloidosis which is a condition that can even be fatal. It causes problems in many vital organs due to a fatal buildup of blood proteins in them.
What Are the Causes of Autoinflammatory Diseases
The immune system is designed to discover anything from the outside of the body that attacks it, but when it sees healthy tissue as a harmful outsider you get both autoimmune and autoinflammatory diseases. What makes the two groups of diseases different is the part of the immune system that causes them.
Acquired immune system is the one that is developed as the time passes. It is very useful since it manages to remember most invaders and prevent any kind of their negative effects in the future. In case they return, the acquired immune system will recognize them immediately and fend off their attacks. This is the way most vaccines work. Malfunctioning of the acquired immune system causes vast majority of autoimmune diseases.
Innate immune system, on the other hand, is the one that includes certain kinds of white blood cells whose job is to destroy many detrimental substances. When this part of the immune system causes unwanted and unnecessary inflammation, we get autoinflammatory diseases. It starts reacting against the healthy cells in the body, instead of the harmful invaders.
There are several kinds of autoinflammatory diseases and the most common ones are listed below, along with their symptoms and more information.
TRAPS is an acronym that stands for tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated periodic syndrome. Many people also know it by the name of Hibernian fever. It is very unpleasant, accompanied by very long-lasting pain in the abdominal area and chest, very high temperatures, inflammation in the facial area (most notably the eyes) and joint pain.
TRAPS is present in children and adults and it affects both men and women. It also has no ethnic preference.
TRAPS in particular is caused by a mutation of one particular gene. Onsets of TRAPS are often started by some kind of an infection or stress.
FMF stands for familial Mediterranean fever and it also comes with abdominal pain coming from severe inflammation, swollen joints, pleurisy pains and rash.
It is more common in children and it affects mostly (but not exclusively) people of the Turkish, Jewish and Arab descends. The cause is a mutation of the MEFV gene which is used to make a protein pyrin, which resembles many proteins in cell nucleus used to regulate inflammatory responses.
NOMID stands for neonatal onset multisystem inflammatory disease. It is very widely spread and can affect the central nervous system, eyes, joints, skin and more. The most common symptoms are rash (usually the first one to appear), meningitis, joint swelling, pain and even damage, fever, loss of hearing and/or vision and even mental retardation. NOMID is very common in children.
Other, less common autoinflammatory conditions are DIRA, CANDLE and Bechet’s disease.
What Are the Treatment Options for Autoinflammatory Diseases
TNF inhibitors are used against TRAPS, but also diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and even asthma. However, they can also cause lymphoma infections, demyelination and many other side effects which greatly reduce their benefits. TNF inhibitors can actually activate latent tuberculosis.
FMF disease is treated using colchicine, which reduces inflammation throughout the body. The downside of colchicine is that it is toxic and causes gastrointestinal problems, neutropenia, anemia, hair loss and even bone marrow damage, especially in higher dosages.
NOMID is treated with anakinra and it is very effective in reducing the symptoms and inflammation. On the other hand, anakinra has a number of contraindications, as well as side effects including nausea, abdominal pain, allergies, infections in the respiratory tract, numerous skin issues and erythema and pain at the site of the injection.
As you can see, all of the medication used to treat autoinflammatory conditions comes with adverse side effects and negative interactions with other drugs. Finding an anti-inflammatory treatment option that is safe is a great benefit against all autoinflammatory diseases and the safest of them all is palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), which is a substance naturally present in the body. It is created when the body needs to reduce pain and inflammation and also when cells need help recovering from some kind of damage. PEA is very effective against a number of painful and inflammatory conditions through its effects on various nuclear receptors, including PPAR-alpha, GPR55, GPR119, CB1, CB2 and TRPV1. These help relieve pain and calm inflamed cells in the most natural way possible.
What differentiates PEA from other forms of treatment is its complete safety – seen in its complete lack of side effects, negative interactions with any drug and lack of tolerance buildup and overdose level. It is an endogenous fatty acid amide and it is quickly broken down by NAAA and FAAH enzymes.
This means that it can be used to treat pain and inflammation alongside any other drug, for long periods of time and without any fear of adverse side effects.