"Auto" is a medical term for "self." The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system usually attacks invading bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. With an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks your own body.
There are many different autoimmune diseases
Symptoms of autoimmune diseases are different depending on which disease you have and what part of your body is affected
Doctors do blood tests to check for an autoimmune disease
Doctors treat autoimmune diseases with medicines that slow down the immune system
Autoimmune diseases may attack almost any part of your body:
Your immune system attacks your healthy tissues. Here’s how it works:
Usually, your immune system protects your body from illness by attacking substances (such as bacteria) that are dangerous or unhealthy
In autoimmune diseases, your immune system mistakes healthy parts of your body for an attacking substance
Your immune system then attacks your healthy cells or tissues just like they were something that would make you sick
This causes the symptoms of an autoimmune disease
Some people are more likely to have an autoimmune disease because it runs in their family.
Women are more likely than men to have an autoimmune disease.
Symptoms are different depending on which disease you have and what part of your body is affected. However, in general, autoimmune diseases cause swelling and tissue damage. You may have one or more of these symptoms:
Sometimes an autoimmune disease may cause death.
The most common medicines doctors use are corticosteroids, such as prednisone. Sometimes doctors use stronger drugs to slow down your immune system.
The downside of these medicines is they also make it harder for your body to fight off infection. Some of the medicines also can increase your risk of cancer. Your doctor will watch you closely to help protect you from getting another sickness.
Most autoimmune diseases are long term, and people who have them often need to take medicine for the rest of their lives.