Tags: Health Topics | autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune Diseases: What Are They? Who Gets Them?

By    |   Friday, 14 Aug 2015 01:52 PM

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body's immune system is overactive and the body acts against itself, attacking its own tissues.

The medical website WebMD noted: "In response to an unknown trigger, the immune system may begin producing antibodies that instead of fighting infections, attack the body's own tissues. Treatment for autoimmune diseases generally focuses on reducing immune system activity."

Science has not yet determined why some people are prone to these conditions — they number more than 80 — and others never get them, noted the National Institutes of Health. But women, Hispanic-Americans, Native-Americans as well as African-Americans, seem to have more risk of contracting them, the NIH said.

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Symptoms tend to be similar — inflammation and swelling, often fever and muscle aches and overall fatigue. At times, sufferers have no symptoms and then a flare-up will occur out of the blue, the NIH said, noting early treatment through prescription medications including often the use of corticosteroids, which cut back immune response.

Among the most well-known autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, which can attack the body's joints, and without treatment, leave permanent damage.

Another is lupus, which creates antibodies within a person's system. They then attach to organs and tissues including the kidneys, the lungs, joints, blood cells and nerves, often creating fatigue and pain, WebMD.com noted.

Many sufferers of autoimmune disorders have inflammatory bowel disease — including Crohn's Disease or ulcerative colitis. Those can be painful and embarrassing, and attack the lining of the intestines and bowels.

Other autoimmune disorders include Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and the skin disorder, psoriasis.

More than 50 million Americans are thought to have an autoimmune disorder, according to the website MindBodyGreen.com. It noted that these diseases are among the Top 10 causes of death in women over the age of 65.

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"Autoimmune diseases are born when your body is working hard to defend itself against something potentially dangerous, such as an allergen, a toxin, an infection, or even a food, and it fails to differentiate between the intruder and parts of your own body. Mistaking certain types of tissues for harmful substances, your body turns these antibodies against itself, wreaking havoc on your organs," the website noted.

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Autoimmune diseases occur when the body's immune system is overactive and the body acts against itself, attacking its own tissues.
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