Overview of Autoimmune Diseases

Your immune system is the network of cells and tissues throughout your body that work together to defend you from viruses, bacteria, and infection. It tries to identify, kill, and eliminate the invaders that might hurt you.

What happens in autoimmune diseases?

Autoimmune diseases refer to problems with the acquired immune system’s reactions. Immune cells target the body’s own healthy tissues by mistake, signaling the body to attack them.

Autoimmune diseases can affect almost any part of the body, including the:

  • Heart.
  • Brain.
  • Nerves.
  • Muscles.
  • Skin.
  • Eyes.
  • Joints.
  • Lungs.
  • Kidneys.
  • Glands.
  • Digestive system.
  • Blood vessels.

Types of Autoimmune Diseases

Some examples of autoimmune disease include:

Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases

Most autoimmune diseases cause inflammation, which produces redness, heat, pain, and swelling.

Many autoimmune diseases affect more than one part of the body. The symptoms you have will depend on the body part(s) affected, such as:

  • Joints, which can cause joint pain, stiffness, and loss of function.
  • Thyroid, which might cause you to be tired, gain weight, or have muscle aches.
  • Skin, which can cause rashes, blisters, and color changes.

Causes of Autoimmune Diseases

No one is sure what causes autoimmune diseases. In most cases, a combination of factors is probably at work, such as:

  • Genes, which may make you more likely to develop the disease.
  • Environment, such as a virus that triggers the disease if you have the gene(s).