Autoimmune Diseases-Information on Autoimmune Diseases
Posted Sep 11 2009 4:55pm
Most autoimmune diseases occur in women, and most often during their childbearing years. Some of these diseases also affect African American, American Indian, and Latina women more than white women. These diseases tend to run in families, so your genes, along with the way your immune system responds to certain triggers or things in the environment, affect your chances of getting one of these diseases. If you think you may have an autoimmune disease, ask your family members if they have had symptoms like yours. The good news is that if you have an autoimmune disease, there ARE things you can do to feel better!
The immune system is made up of organs and cells that work together to defend the body against attacks by outside invaders such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Autoimmune diseases are disorders in which the body's immune system reacts against itself and produces antibodies to attack its own healthy cells and tissue. Autoimmune disorders can be directed mainly at one part of the body, such as the thyroid gland or the pancreas, or they can spread widely throughout the body, as in the case of diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus.
There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, and some have similar symptoms. This makes it hard for your health care provider to know if you really have one of these diseases, and if so, which one. Getting diagnosed can be frustrating and stressful. In many people, the first symptoms are being tired, muscle aches and low fever.
Normally the immune system's army of white blood cells helps protect the body from harmful substances, called antigens. Examples of antigens include bacteria, viruses, toxins, cancer cells, and foreign blood or tissues from another person or species. The immune system produces antibodies that destroy these harmful substances.
Autoimmune disorders are diseases caused by the body producing an inappropriate immune response against its own tissues. Sometimes the immune system will cease to recognize one or more of the body’s normal constituents as “self” and will create autoantibodies �" antibodies that attack its own cells, tissues, and/or organs. This causes inflammation and damage and it leads to autoimmune disorders.
The immune system is a network of organs, cells and molecules that work together to defend the body against attacks by foreign (not of the body) invaders such as germs, bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. When one of these invaders (antigens) tries to break into the body, the body's first line of defense is the skin and mucous membranes. The skin and mucous membranes house macrophages (white cells of the tissues) and antibodies. The macrophages job is to digest the antigens while the antibodies trap the antigens that got away.
Autoimmune diseases are the third most common category of disease in the United States after cancer and heart disease; they affect approximately 5%�"8% of the population or 14�"22 million persons. Autoimmune diseases can affect virtually every site in the body, including the endocrine system, connective tissue, gastrointestinal tract, heart, skin, and kidneys. At least 15 diseases are known to be the direct result of an autoimmune response, while circumstantial evidence implicates >80 conditions with autoimmunity. In several instances, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and myocarditis, the autoimmune disease can be induced experimentally by administering self-antigen in the presence of adjuvant (collagen, myelin basic protein, and cardiac myosin, respectively).