The function of the immune system is to identify and fight threats to our health such as viral infections, bacteria, and disease. In a person with an autoimmune disorder, the immune system incorrectly treats the body’s own cells as a threat and attacks them.
The function of the immune system is to identify and fight threats to our health such as viral infections, bacteria, toxins, and disease. The system uses white blood cells as protection from the threats, called antigens. In a person with an autoimmune disorder, the immune system incorrectly treats the body’s own cells as a threat and attacks them. The response to the healthy cells is similar to an allergic reaction. The cause for development of an autoimmune disorder is currently unknown. A theory is that specific microorganisms (such as virus or bacteria) or medication may trigger the response to begin. The complications are very specific to the particular disorder and can vary widely. The result of the damage caused by the disorder can include; damage/destruction of body tissue, decreased function of an organ, and an organ growing abnormally.
More than 80 types of autoimmune disorders are known. These are separated into two categories by what is affected. There are disorders that affect a particular organ such as the liver in those with type 1 diabetes. The other category is for the disorders that affect a particular type of tissue in the body. These can occur in various areas of the body, essentially wherever the tissue is found. An example of this type of autoimmune disorder is Rheumatoid Arthritis.
There are no cures for autoimmune disorders. Instead the focus is on maintaining overall health and treating the symptoms caused. This can include changes to diet and lifestyle to reduce stress. Medication is used to treat symptoms and more commonly to suppress the immune system altogether. The medications used to reduce the immune system’s incorrect response to healthy cells are called immunosuppressive. They may include corticosteroids and unfortunately have serious side effects. They essentially protect the body from itself but at the price of compromising the immune system’s ability to fight REAL threats. For this reason comprehensive plans are made for the management of autoimmune disorders that will include medicine as only one part of the treatment.