There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, and nearly 4% of the world’s population suffers from at least one of these conditions. Symptoms for autoimmune diseases can range in severity from uncomfortable and frustrating to debilitating. There’s a great deal of mystery surrounding these conditions, but researchers are constantly learning more to help get to the bottom of their causes.
What We Know About Autoimmune Disease
While 23.5 million people in the US are afflicted by autoimmune disease, a staggering 80% of those are women. Experts speculate the high incidence of these conditions in women could have something to do with elevated hormone levels during childbearing years. This hasn’t been proven, however, and other influences such as genetic and environmental factors also play a role in autoimmunity.
In an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Some experts believe that autoimmunity occurs when the immune system responds to a virus or infection and healthy tissues accidentally get caught up in that response. For instance, many people with strep throat go on to develop psoriasis. And, some people with cancer go on to develop scleroderma, a thickening of the connective tissues and skin. To that end, there could be a link between certain infections and autoimmune disease, caused by a leftover immune response that targets healthy tissue instead of just the illness.
Some scientists also speculate certain injuries could trigger autoimmunity. Body parts that incur high stress may experience an autoimmune response after tendon damage develops. Blood cells attempt to heal the affected area, but the abnormal immune response leads to widespread inflammation beyond the injury. Again, these suspected links haven’t been confirmed, but scientists are continuing to research them.
Finally, there appears to be a clear link between genetics and autoimmune disease, though the precise mechanisms haven’t been confirmed. Individuals who have family members with lupus or multiple sclerosis face a higher risk of autoimmune disease themselves, for instance. But genetics alone don’t seem to be enough to create an autoimmune response. It’s possible to have lupus-specific DNA and never get the disease.
Experts are looking into the complex interplay among genetic and other factors, such as illness and injury. One area they’re researching is the immune system’s ability to handle stress, and whether that may influence an autoimmune response. As answers are revealed, experts hope their findings will pave the way for a better understanding of autoimmunity, and thus, better treatment options.
For more health awareness blogs, please visit www.stemedix.com/blog
This post was written by a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine for multiple sclerosis, also known as stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.