Created: Monday, November 12, 2007

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 createautoantibodies – antibodies that attack its own cells, tissues, and/or organs. This causes inflammation and damage and it leads to autoimmune disorders.

The cause of autoimmune diseases is infections, but it appears that there is an genetic predisposition to develop autoimmune disease in many cases. In a few types of autoimmune disease (such as rheumatic fever), a bacteria or virus triggers an immune response, and the antibodies or T-cells attack normal cells because they have some part of their structure that resembles a part of the structure of the infecting microorganism.

Autoimmune disorders fall into two general types: those that damage many organs (systemic autoimmune diseases) and those where only a single organ or tissue is directly damaged by the autoimmune process (localized). However, the distinctions become blurred as the effect of localized autoimmune disorders frequently extends beyond the targeted tissues, indirectly affecting other body organs and systems. Some of the most common types of autoimmune disorders include:

Systemic Autoimmune Diseases Localized Autoimmune Diseases

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (pancreas islets)

Lupus [Systemic Lupus Erythematosus] (skin, joints, kidneys, heart, brain, red blood cells, other)

Hashimoto's thyroiditis, Graves' disease (thyroid)

Scleroderma (skin, intestine, less commonly lung)

Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, Ulcerative colitis (GI tract)

Multiple sclerosis* (Central nervous system)

Goodpasture's syndrome (lungs, kidneys)

Addison's disease (adrenal)

Wegener's granulomatosis (blood vessels, sinuses, lungs, kidneys)

Primary biliary cirrhosis, Sclerosing cholangitis, Autoimmune hepatitis (liver)

Polymyalgia Rheumatica (large muscle groups)

Temporal Arteritis / Giant Cell Arteritis (arteries of the head and neck)

Guillain-Barre syndrome (Peripheral nervous system)