All diseases characterized by production of antibodies which attack body's own cells are classified into a group of autoimmune diseases. The immune system is a well-equipped set of organs and tissues in charge with defense of the body from microorganisms, inflammation, injury, trauma and all detrimental influence which may cause damage to the body. It is capable or differentiating the cells of the body and foreign particles and by doing so it only attacks foreign particles preserving body cells.
Still, under certain circumstances the immune system may start producing antibodies against its own cells and this is actually an onset of autoimmune diseases. There are more than 80 autoimmune diseases reported and it is believed that in the future doctor will discover even more.
Frequency of Autoimmune Diseases and Their Causes
In general, autoimmune diseases are quite frequent and only in the United States they affect approximately 23.5 million people. They can be quite disabling and cause premature death. Fortunately, not all autoimmune illnesses inevitably lead to death. Some of them are well-controlled and patients can live normally with proper treatment.
An autoimmune disease may affect each and every individual. However, certain people are at higher risk of developing these diseases. For example, it is estimated that women of childbearing age are more affected and susceptible to autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, these disorders are more common in people with positive family history (those who have family members suffering from some autoimmune disease).
It is also possible to develop an autoimmune disease due to certain environmental factors such as exposure to sunlight, viral or bacterial infections etc. In such case these factors are actually triggers and they induce the onset of an autoimmune disease. And finally, many studies have confirmed that some autoimmune diseases affect more certain groups of people. Here is one simple example, diabetes type 1 is the most frequent among white people.
Are Autoimmune Diseases Curable?
Unfortunately, autoimmune diseases are not curable, but they are treatable. With proper medications most of them can be easily brought under control. Still, it may be inevitable to develop many complications, some of which are directly associated with the disease while others result from prolonged intake of medications.
The goal of the treatment is to relieve current symptoms of the disease and stop its progression. In certain autoimmune diseases that have led to destruction of certain organs which then cannot produce specific substances (such as hormones, insulin etc) patients are administered these substances artificially.
And finally, patients are generally treated with drugs capable of suppressing the immune system. This way inadequate reaction towards body's own cells significantly reduces and symptoms are brought under control. However, such treatment is associated with many side effects. Because of all the mentioned patients suffering from autoimmune diseases are closely monitored and have regular check-ups for the rest of their lives.