Nearly 80% of all autoimmune diseases occur in women.

Autoimmune diseases result from a dysfunction of the immune system. The immune system is designed to protect you from disease and infection. Sometimes, though, the immune system can produce autoantibodies that attack healthy cells, tissues, and organs. This can lead to autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases can affect any part of the body. More than 80 autoimmune diseases have been identified. Some are relatively well known, such as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, while others are rare and difficult to diagnose.

What causes autoimmune diseases?

No one is sure what causes autoimmune diseases. In most cases, however, the disease may be caused by genetic and environment factors. Autoimmune diseases can affect anyone, yet, certain people are at greater risk.

Autoimmune disease risk factors include:

Women of childbearing age – more women then men have autoimmune diseases, which often start during their childbearing years.

People with a family history – Some autoimmune diseases run in families, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. It is also common for different types of autoimmune diseases to affect different members of a single family. Inheriting certain genes can make it more likely to get an autoimmune disease. But a combination of genes and other factors may trigger the disease to start.

Environmental exposures- Certain events or environmental exposures may cause some autoimmune diseases, or make them worse. Sunlight, chemical solvents, cigarette smoking, and viral and bacterial infections are linked to many autoimmune diseases.

Stress – Researches think that stress may be involved in the development of autoimmune diseases. In one study, 80% of individuals reported emotional stress or major like events before the onset of symptoms.

How are autoimmune diseases treated?

There are many types of medicines used to treat autoimmune diseases. Of course treatment depends on which disease you have, how severe it is, and your symptoms.

Treatment can do the following:

Relieve symptoms. Some people can use over-the-counter drugs for mild symptoms, like aspirin and ibuprofen for mild pain. Others with more severe symptoms may need prescription drugs to help relieve symptoms such as pain, swelling, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, fatigue, or rashes.

Replace vital substances the body can no longer make on its own. Some autoimmune diseases, like diabetes and thyroid disease, can affect the body’s ability to make substances it needs to function. With diabetes, insulin injections are needed to regulate blood sugar. Thyroid hormone replacement restores thyroid hormone levels in people with underactive thyroid.

Suppress the immune system. Some drugs can suppress immune system activity. These drugs can help control the disease process and preserve organ function. For instance, these drugs are used to control inflammation in affected kidneys in people with lupus to keep the kidneys working. Medicines used to suppress inflammation include chemotherapy given at lower doses than for cancer treatment and drugs used in patients who have had an organ transplant to protect against rejection. A class of drugs called anti-TNF medications blocks inflammation in some forms of autoimmune arthritis and psoriasis.