Autoimmune Disease

The immune system is essential to survival, and even a modest decrease in immune function can leave a person susceptible to infection. But the immune system itself can also cause disease, by inappropriately attacking the body's own organs, tissues, or cells.

More than 80 autoimmune diseases have been described to date. Some, such as type 1 diabetes, attack specific organs, while others, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), involve multiple organs. Although many autoimmune diseases are rare, collectively they affect approximately 5 to 8 percent of the U.S. population. A disproportionate number of people with autoimmune disorders are women. For unknown reasons, the prevalence of autoimmune diseases is increasing.

SOURCE: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

National Institutes of Health


March is Autoimmune Disease
Awareness Month!

Autoimmune diseases result from a dysfunction of the immune system. The immune system protects you from disease and infection. Sometimes, though, the immune system can produce autoantibodies that attack healthy cells, tissues, and organs. This can lead to autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases can affect any part of the body. More than 80 autoimmune diseases have been identified. Some are relatively well known, such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, while others are rare and difficult to diagnose.

Collectively, autoimmune diseases are among the most prevalent diseases in the U.S., affecting more than 23.5 million Americans. They are more common among women, and while some are more prevalent among white people, others are more common among African-Americans and Hispanics. Autoimmune diseases are becoming increasingly prevalent, for reasons unknown.

Some autoimmune diseases are life-threatening, and most are debilitating and require a lifetime of treatment. There are treatments available to reduce the symptoms and effects from many autoimmune diseases, but cures have yet to be discovered. Since most autoimmune diseases are rare, patients can often spend years seeking a proper diagnosis.

Learn more about autoimmune diseases here.