Autoimmune Diseases


The immune system normally defends the body against diseases and infections; however, it sometimes does not function as such, creating autoantibodies that attack healthy cells instead of infected ones. Autoimmune diseases can target all body parts or organs.

The causes of autoimmune diseases are yet to be discerned; it is assumed that they are a result of environmental and genetic aspects. Research found that fertile women are the most likely to suffer from them. Although these diseases do not negatively affect fertility, some of the medications may not be safe to use during pregnancy. Moreover, depending on the disease and its symptoms, the mother or child can be at risk. For example, women who have lupus have a higher risk of premature births and stillbirths.

Some autoimmune diseases can cause disabilities or be even fatal. Unfortunately, no cure is available for them; only treatment methods to relieve the symptoms. A lot of research has been conducted in this area; here are some of the most prominent findings:

  • Exposure to solvents like those in cleaners, nail polish, and paint thinners cause systemic sclerosis.
  • Smoking is partly the reason for the occurrence of two types of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Consuming gluten found in barley, wheat, rye, and other grains, accelerates celiac disease progression, which affects the small intestine and usually leads to chronic diarrhea and fatigue.
  • Some autoimmune diseases are hereditary, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. It is worth mentioning that different family members can develop different types of autoimmune diseases due to inheriting genes that make them susceptible to autoimmune diseases in general.
  • People from certain ethnicities suffer from these diseases more frequently. For instance, white people are more prone to develop type 1 diabetes, while Hispanics and Africans would suffer from more serious lupus symptoms.

Since many symptoms of autoimmune diseases are common among them and even among other diseases, diagnosis becomes a tough task. Gathering a full family history, writing down the symptoms, going to a specialist, and most importantly getting a second, third, and even a fourth opinion are important to ensure an accurate diagnosis is made. All in all, people are advised to consult a doctor whenever they suspect developing an autoimmune disease; this would guarantee a better quality of life and help mitigate the progress of symptoms.

Last but not least, it is of crucial importance for all of us to be aware of the effects that our lifestyle, genetic history, and environmental surroundings may have on our health since autoimmune diseases are typically a product of a combination of those three factors.


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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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