What is an auto-immune disease?

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Auto-immune diseases are diseases that are caused by the body’s inability to determine whether a certain substance or organism is its own or from a known antigen or foreign material.  When this happens, the body’s immune systems will be activated in such a way that it attacks its own healthy cells.  These cells are basically mistaken for an antigen which can be in the form of bacteria or viruses.  When there is an auto-immune disorder, the healthy cells will be destroyed causing inflammation and various abnormalities.

Under normal and healthy conditions, the body’s immune system will produce antibodies to combat the presence of so-called antigens that can attack healthy cells.  Antigens are toxins, free radicals, bacteria, or viruses that can cause sickness in the body by attacking various cells and tissues.  The problem with auto-immunity is that the immune system will mistakenly attack the body’s own healthy cells and treat them as if they are antigens.  Under auto-immune conditions, various cells and tissues may be destroyed causing severe inflammation and possible change in function.  Auto-immune diseases may also mean abnormalities of organ function, growth, and development.  Various parts of the body may be affected in the presence of auto-immune disease.  These include muscles, joints, connective tissue, blood vessels, and the skin among many others.  There is no known cause on why auto-immune diseases occur.  Various theories revolve around the effect of bacterial or viral presence in the body which can greatly contribute to the way the immune system works.

Symptoms of auto-immune disease vary greatly depending on the affected tissues and organs of the body.  A common example of an auto-immune disease is rheumatoid arthritis which features inflammatory changes around the joints involving bone, muscle, and connective tissue.  In a condition called multiple sclerosis, the myelin covering of the brain and spinal cord is affected causing possible body weakness and paralysis.  In vitiligo, the affected part is the skin which loses its normal pigmentation.

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