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Auto-Immune Disorders

An autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system can’t tell the difference between healthy body tissue and antigens. The result is an immune response that destroys normal body tissues. This response is a hypersensitivity reaction similar to the response in allergic conditions.

In allergies, the immune system reacts to an outside substance that it normally would ignore. With autoimmune disorders, the immune system reacts to normal body tissues that it would normally ignore.

What causes the immune system to no longer tell the difference between healthy body tissues and antigens is unclear and depends on a variety of factors, including diet, environment and genetics. One common theory is that bacteria, viruses or even certain drugs may trigger some of these changes, especially in people who have genes that make them more likely to get autoimmune disorders.

An autoimmune disorder may result in:

  • destruction of body tissue
  • Abnormal growth of an organ
  • Changes in organ function
  • An autoimmune disorder may affect one or more organ or tissue types.

Organs and tissues commonly affected by autoimmune disorders include:

  • Blood vessels
  • Connective tissues
  • Endocrine glands such as the thyroid or pancreas
  • Joints
  • Muscles
  • Red blood cells
  • Skin

Symptoms of an autoimmune disease vary based on the disease and location of the abnormal immune response and can cause fatigue, fever, and general malaise. Addressing auto-immune disorders is a process that takes a degree of detective work. Understanding the foundation of a disease and the contributing psychological, psychosocial, and genetic factors is critical for improving quality of life and clinical outcomes.

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