What is Autoimmunity?
Your immune system defends the body against invasions of bacteria and viruses – when you cut your finger and a germ enters the cut, or if you step on a dirty nail – the immune system sees the germs that may harm you and kills them. When the body’s immune cells begin seeing healthy tissues cells as invaders and start attacking them, we call this autoimmunity.
Autoimmune disease can affect almost any part of the body, it can sometimes affect many parts of the body at once. The exact problem or symptoms that a person experiences depends on which tissues are targeted. If the skin is targeted you may have rashes or blisters, if it is the thyroid gland you may be tired or gain weight and have muscle aches.
There are over 80 different autoimmune diseases.
Some examples are:
- Diabetes type 1 (immune cells attacking cells in the pancreas)
- Crohns Disease (immune cells attacking cells in the lining of the intestine)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (immune cells attacking cells in cartilage in joints)
- Alopecia (immune cells attacking cells in the hair follicle)
- Hashimotos (immune cells attacking cells in the thyroid gland)
Scientists do not know why the immune system recognises healthy tissue cells as foreign bodies or invaders (germs). This immune system attack causes a chronic inflammatory response at the targeted tissue site. Autoimmune diseases cannot be caught from another person. Scientists believe autoimmune diseases have two main influencing factors which are genes and the environment we live in. If you have a certain gene or a combination of genes which have been inherited you may be at a higher risk of developing an autoimmune disease.
The onset of the disease will be initiated by some sort of environmental trigger e.g. life trauma, medications, pregnancy, change in hormones, infections, toxins etc