If you have an autoimmune (aw-toh-ih-MYOON) disease, your
experience may have been frustrating and confusing. It can be
hard to describe the often debilitating symptoms many people
endure. And the medical community is still learning about these
diseases, which affect mostly women. To date, there are no cures.
The good news is that there are treatments available to manage
tough symptoms and you can feel better. At the same time,
experts are working toward better treatments and perhaps even a
way to prevent these diseases someday.
What are autoimmune diseases?
The immune system is a complex net-
work of special cells and organs that
defends the body from “foreign” invad-
ers. These invaders can be germs, viruses,
and other foreign things called antigens
At the core of the immune system is the
ability to distinguish between self and
nonself: what’s you and what’s foreign.
A flaw can make the body unable to tell
the difference between self and nonself.
When this happens, the body makes
deez) that attack normal cells by mistake.
At the same time, special cells called
regulatory T cells fail to do their job of
keeping the immune system in line. The
result is a misguided attack on your own
body. This causes the damage we know as
an autoimmune disease.
Body Parts That Can Be Affected
by Autoimmune Diseases
The Healthy Woman: A Complete Guide for All Ages
The more than 80 different autoimmune
diseases are each defined by the kind of
damage involved and the body part(s)
affected. The blood, skin, eyes, nerves,
and heart are just some of the body parts
that can be involved.
Who is at risk of getting
Individually, autoimmune diseases are