Autoimmune Diseases

What are autoimmune diseases?

Autoimmune diseases (ADs) occur when the immune system begins producing antibodies that instead of fighting disease attack the body’s own tissues. There are more than 80 different types, including Type 1 diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Lupus, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Multiple sclerosis (MS), Psoriasis, Grave’s disease, Sjögren Syndrome and Vasculitis.

How common are they?

Several 100 million people worldwide suffer from the various forms. ADs are one of the top ten causes of death among women under the age of 65 in the US, the top cause of morbidity in women, and the 2nd highest cause of chronic illness. This makes this poorly understood group of diseases a public health crisis comparable to heart disease and cancer.

What causes the immune system to act this way?

The exact causes of the various autoimmune diseases are still unknown, although there are many theories about what causes it to malfunction including:

-Bacteria or virus

-Drugs

-Chemical irritants

-Environmental toxins

Studies have shown that autoimmune disorders often run in families and are much more common in women.

What are the effects?

Chronic and recurring muscle and joint pain, fatigue, headache, inflammation, and susceptibility to infections are some of many severe problems that affect everyday lives for those millions of patients suffering from ADs. More than one part of the body can be affected at once, which is why some people may suffer from more than one autoimmune disease at the same time.

The need for better tests

As our deep understanding of ADs is poor, current diagnostic, prognostic, classification and therapeutic approaches do not work well enough. Because many Autoimmune diseases share common symptoms, even initial diagnosis is extremely difficult.  However, research advances in the emerging field of blood biomarkers are opening the way to tests that can provide rapid and accurate differential diagnosis.