Autoimmune-DiseaseAutoimmune Disease: Causes, Types, Symptoms, and Treatments

Commonly asked questions about autoimmune disease.

What is Autoimmune Disease?

Autoimmune disease as stated by Health Line is a disease that develops when the immune system tries to defend the body from its own healthy cells. When this happens it is as if the body is at war with itself. Depending on the type of autoimmune disease it can affect multiple types of body tissue. Certain autoimmune diseases are also known to cause abnormal organ growth and changes in an organ’s function.

There are roughly 80 different kinds of autoimmune disease which can make many of them hard to differentiate between. Many of them have similar symptoms, it is also possible to have more than one type of autoimmune disease at a time. Autoimmune diseases are known to fluctuate between showing little to no symptoms and worsening symptoms, also known as “remission” and “flare ups” respectively.

What Types of Autoimmune Disease are There?

Below you will find a list provided by Health Line that includes some of the most common autoimmune diseases and a brief description for each one.

Types Description
Rheumatoid Arthritis Is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects many joints in the body, including those in the hands and feet.
Systemic lupus Erythematosus Is an inflammatory disease that is caused by the immune system attacking its own tissues such as the skin, joints, kidneys, and brain.
Celiac Sprue Disease Is a reaction to gluten that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine.
Pernicious Anemia Is a decrease in red blood cells caused by the inability to absorb vitamin B-12.
Vitiligo Is a disease that causes the loss of skin color in white blotches.
Scleroderma A chronic hardening and tightening of the skin and its connective tissues.
Psoriasis A condition in which skin cells build up and form scales and itchy, dry patches.
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases A group of inflammatory diseases found in the colon and small intestine.
Hashimoto’s Disease When the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
Addison’s Disease Is when the adrenal glands do not produce a sufficient amount of hormones.
Reactive Arthritis Joint pain and swelling that is triggered by an infection elsewhere in the body.
Sjögren’s Syndrome A disease that destroys the glands that produce tears and saliva, causing dry eyes and mouth. It may also affect the kidneys or lungs.
Type 1 Diabetes A condition in which the pancreas produces little to no insulin.


What Causes Autoimmune Disease?

No one is really sure what exactly is responsible for causing autoimmune disease. However, doctors have several theories of what may be causing them, such as a virus or bacteria that confuses the immune system and makes it think that healthy tissue is actually an antigen, which in turn causes the immune system to attack perfectly healthy tissue.

What Risk Factors Attribute to Autoimmune Disease?

Even though there has not been a direct cause identified for causing autoimmune disease there are many risk factors that doctors attribute to their development or growth such as the ones listed by Better Health Channel.

  • Family or Personal history of autoimmune disease: Most autoimmune diseases have a genetic or hereditary link, meaning if you have a family member with an autoimmune disease you may be at an increased risk for developing one as well.
  • Gender: Over 75% of autoimmune diseases occur in women.
  • Environmental Factors: A person’s susceptibility to autoimmune disorders may be linked to common environmental factors.
  • Sex Hormone: Autoimmune diseases usually strike during the childbearing years. Major hormonal changes such as pregnancy, childbirth and menopause can affect autoimmune diseases in both positive and negative ways.
  • Infection: Some autoimmune diseases seem to be affected by certain infections.

What are the Signs/Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease?

Due to the fact that there are so many different kinds of autoimmune disease many of the symptoms vary. However the most common/generic symptoms for autoimmune disease are fatigue, fever and an overall general feeling of illness. Most symptoms worsen during flare-ups and lessen during regression. Autoimmune disease is most likely to affect joints, muscles, skin, red blood cells, blood vessels, connective tissues and endocrine glands.

Is Autoimmune Disease Curable?

At this time there is not a cure for most autoimmune diseases. However, researchers are looking for new ways to treat them all the time. There are medications with which you can help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. There are lifestyle changes that can be made to help such as a heart healthy diet, rest, stress management and regular exercise.

What Drugs/Medicines are Used to Help Treat Autoimmune Disease?

The main form of drug used to help treat an autoimmune disease is classified as an immunosuppressant drug. Immunosuppressants are used when the body’s immune system is choosing to recognize a part of the body as a foreign object and starts to attack it. These drugs cause the bodies immune system to weaken and lessen the immune system’s ability to hurt the body.

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View Sources

  1. Health Line – What is Autoimmune Disease
  2. Health Line – Types of Autoimmune Disease
  3. Better Health Channel – Autoimmune Disorders 



Whitacre C, Sex Differences in Autoimmune Disease, 2001, Nature Immunology 2, 777-780

Sakaguchi S, Fukuma K, Kuribayashi K, Masuda T, Organ-Specific autoimmune diseases induced in mice by elimination of T cell subset.I. Evidence for the active participation of T cells in natural self-tolerance: deficit of a T cell subset as a possible cause of autoimmune disease. 1985, Rockefeller University Press, Vol 161(1), 72-87