What are autoimmune diseases?
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. Our bodies have an immune system, which is a complex network of special cells and organs that defends the body from germs and other foreign invaders. At the core of the immune system is the ability to tell the difference between self and nonself: what's you and what's foreign. A flaw can make the body unable to tell the difference between self and nonself. When this happens, the body makes autoantibodies that attack normal cells by mistake. At the same time, special cells called regulatory T cells fail to do their job of keeping the immune system in line. The result is a misguided attack on your own body. This causes the damage we know as autoimmune disease. The body parts that are affected depend on the type of autoimmune disease. There are more than 80 known types.Nearly any body part can be involved. Common symptoms include low grade fever and feeling tired. Often symptoms come and go. The cause is generally unknown. Some autoimmune diseases such as lupus run in families, and certain cases may be triggered by infections or other environmental factors. Some common diseases that are generally considered autoimmune include celiac disease, diabetes mellitus type 1, Graves' disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus. The diagnosis can be difficult to determine. Treatment depends on the type and severity of the condition. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and immunosuppressants are often used. Intravenous immunoglobulin may also occasionally be used. While treatment usually improves symptoms, they do not typically cure the disease. About 7% of the people in Europe are affected by an autoimmune disease. Women are more commonly affected than men. Often they start during adulthood.
For a disease to be considered as an autoimmune disease, it must normally meet the following: - Direct evidence of the transfer of disease-causing antibodies or disease-causing white blood cells from T lymphocytes - Indirect evidence based on the reproduction of autoimmune disease on laboratory animals - Important evidence clinical traces
Who gets autoimmune diseases?
Autoimmune diseases can affect anyone. Yet certain people are at greater risk, including:
Women of childbearing age — More women than men have autoimmune diseases, which often start during their childbearing years.
People with a family history — Some autoimmune diseases run in families, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. It is also common for different types of autoimmune diseases to affect different members of a single family. Inheriting certain genes can make it more likely to get an autoimmune disease. But a combination of genes and other factors may trigger the disease to start.
People who are around certain things in the environment — Certain events or environmental exposures may cause some autoimmune diseases, or make them worse. Sunlight, chemicals called solvents, and viral and bacterial infections are linked to many autoimmune diseases.
Because the incidence of autoimmune diseases is rising, researchers suspect environmental factors like infections and exposures to chemicals or solvents might also be involved.
A “Western” diet is another suspected trigger. Eating high-fat, high-sugar, and highly processed foods is linked to inflammation, which might set off an immune response. However, this hasn’t been proven.
According to the hygiene hypothesis, high levels of cleanliness expose children to fewer antigens than in the past, causing their immune systems to become overactive and more likely to misidentify own tissues as foreign, resulting in autoimmune conditions such as asthma.
People of certain races or ethnic backgrounds — Some autoimmune diseases are more common or affect certain groups of people more severely. For instance, type 1 diabetes is more common in white people. Lupus is most severe for African-American and Hispanic people.