Autoimmune Disease

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An autoimmune disease develops when your immune system, which defends your body against disease, decides your healthy cells are foreign. As a result, your immune system attacks the healthy cells. Depending on the type, an autoimmune disease can affect one or many different types of body tissue. It can also cause abnormal organ growth and changes in organ function. A close genetic relationship exists among autoimmune disease, explaining clustering in individuals and families as well as a common pathway of disease. The cause of autoimmune disease is unknown. There are many theories about what triggers autoimmune diseases, including:

  • bacteria or virus
  • drugs
  • chemical irritants
  • environmental irritants


Autoimmune disease affects up to 50 million Americans. Commonly used immunosuppressant treatments can lead to devastating long-term side effects.

Treatment & Prognosis

Autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions with no cure. Treatment involves attempts to control the process of the disease and to decrease the symptoms, especially during flare-ups. To alleviate symptoms, patients may make adjustments that include:

  • eat a balanced and healthy diet
  • exercise regularly
  • get plenty of rest
  • take vitamin supplements
  • decrease stress
  • limit sun exposure
  • avoid any known triggers of flare-ups

Medical interventions include:

  • hormone replacement therapy, if necessary
  • blood transfusions, if blood is affected
  • anti-inflammatory medication, if joints are affected
  • pain medication
  • immunosuppressive medication
  • physical therapy

Different types of identified autoimmune diseases

We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival. [Winston Churchill]

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