What is Autoimmune Disease?

Autoimmune diseases are caused when your body's immune system attacks your healthy tissues. The reason the immune system starts to malfunction is unknown, though there is some evidence these diseases may be triggered by infections, injuries or environmental factors.

Although genetics is believed to play a role, they do not accurately predict autoimmune disease. In a study of identical twins, most of the patients with an autoimmune disease had a twin who did not have the disease. If the genome you inherit at birth caused autoimmune disease, we would expect both twins to get the same diseases. However, there are ways in which infections, injuries, and environmental factors affect the genome. This is called "epigenetics", and today researchers are studying how epigenetics may lead to autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases affect all parts of the human body, including muscles, skin, the nervous system, important glands, and the digestive system. Common autoimmune diseases include celiac disease, Type 1 Diabetes, Grave's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.

Finally, there is evidence that if you have one autoimmune disease, you are at risk for falling victim to other autoimmune diseases. This is called "comorbidity" and it represents another area of research that ARI supports.