These are a large group of diseases that occur when the immune system attacks a part of the body itself. Nobody knows why that happens. It’s a combination of genetics (heredity) and unknown environmental exposures (especially to viruses), sometimes with a hormonal effect (some of the diseases occur much more often in one sex or the other).
Some examples of organs that get attacked by certain auto-immune diseases include:
- Joints: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus
- Intestine: Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn Disease), Celiac Disease
- Nervous System: Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia Gravis
- Thyroid Gland: Graves’ Disease (Hyperthyroidism), Hashimoto’s (Hypothyroidism)
- Endocrine: Diabetes Type-1
- Kidneys: Glomerulonephritis
- Skin: Psoriasis, Scleroderma, Vitiligo
There are blood tests for specific antibodies to diagnose these. But lots of people test positive who may never get the disease. So we only order such tests if a patient has signs and symptoms of the illness we’re looking for. More and more new medicines are becoming invented to treat these. Lots are advertised on TV. Most of them have significant dangers. It’s fine to ask your health care provider about them, but please don’t pressure us into prescribing them just because all the actors in commercials look so happy, especially not for mild cases.