We all know that our bodies have a defence system which guards us against bacteria, allergens, viruses and toxins. This system is known as our immune system. Did you however know that sometimes the cells of our immune system start attacking the body's own tissues? This are called an autoimmune disorders.
How does this happen? The immune system for some unknown reason fails to differentiate between a potentially harmful factor such as an allergen and the normal tissues of ones own body and mistakenly starts attacking these healthy body tissues wreaking havoc.
What is the resultant harm to the body because of this? Basically, inflammation is caused in the affected tissue along with warmth, redness and pain. Any part of the body, any tissue and any organ can be affected. Organ specific disorders target specific organs, for instance, in Graves' disease it is the thyroid that is affected. Non specific disorders such as lupus or multiple sclerosis target multiple organs or function systems.
Though specific autoimmune disorders cause specific symptoms there are some symptoms that are common to most if not all autoimmune disorders. The most common symptoms are fatigue, muscle aches and low fever. The symptoms in all disorders may range from mild to severe. The disorders are also characterised by so called "flare-ups" during which symptoms are exacerbated and periods of "remission" when symptoms abate.
Which people are more likely to get autoimmune disorder? No one is sure as to what exactly triggers autoimmune disorders in certain people. Genetics plays a role as the tendency to get autoimmune disorders seems to run in families. However, members of the same family can be affected by very different disorders. Thus genetic tendencies are not the only reason as environmental factors are also involved. The trigger for an autoimmune reaction can be toxins from heavy metals like mercury or mycotoxins from molds and fungi from one's surroundings. Some disorders are triggered by infections like candida, Epstein-Barr and herpes simplex. There also seems to be a link between certain food intolerances and autoimmune diseases, for example with gluten intolerance.
An important factor is gender. For reasons that are as yet poorly understood women are more vulnerable to autoimmune disorders than men. Almost 75% of those affected by autoimmune disorders are women. They are also more likely to be affected in the prime of their lives, that is in the child bearing years. It is supposed that the sex hormones may be at least partly responsible. Race to some extent plays a part. Women of particular races like African American or Hispanic American are more likely to develop an auto immune disorder.
There are at least 80 known types of autoimmune diseases with symptoms which range from mild to severely disabling depending upon the extent of the disease and the organs or body functions that are targeted. Autoimmune disorders are more common than we think, and they are on the rise. There has been almost a threefold increase in the incidence of autoimmune disorders.