What Are the Causes of Autoimmune Diseases?

Autoimmune Diseases 101

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Understanding the cause, or spread, of any type of disease is important.

Experts do not believe that autoimmune diseases are contagious, or spread to others like a bacterial or viral infection. These disorders are not related to AIDS, nor are they are a type of cancer.

One study points to a higher risk of developing an autoimmune disorder by spouses, or first-degree relatives, of people who suffer an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease.

The connection—environmental, genetic, or a bias—is not yet known.

Genetic makeup can come into play in the expression of an autoimmune disease. Your genes can contribute a susceptibility to developing an autoimmune disorder. Diseases like psoriasis often occur among members of one extended family. A particular set of genetic combinations that travel through a family line may express itself as lupus in one cousin, while another family may have dermatomyositis, even as another family member has rheumatoid arthritis.

Examples of Autoimmune Diseases:
(listed by the Main Target Organs)

Nervous Systems:Gastrointestinal System:
 Multiple sclerosis Crohn's Disease
 Myasthenia gravis Ulcerative colitis
 Autoimmune neuropathies Primary biliary cirrhosis
 such as Guillain-Barré Autoimmune hepatitis
 Autoimmune ureitis  
   Endocrine Glands:
 Blood: Type 1 or immune mediated
 Autoimmune hemolytic anemia diabetes mellitus
 Pernicious anemia Grave's Disease
 Autoimmune thrombocytopenia Hashimoto's thyroiditis
   Autoimmune oophoritis and
 Blood Vessels: orchitis
 Temporal artertis Autoimmune disease of the
 Anti-phospholipid syndrome adrenal gland
 Vasculitides such as  
 Wegener's granulomatosis Multiple Organs Including the
 Behcet's disease Musculoskeletal Systems:*
   Rheumatoid arthritis
 Skin: Systemic lupus erythematosus
 Psoriasis Scleroderma
 Dermatitis herpetiformis Polymyositis, dermatomyositis
 Pemphigus vulgaris Spondyloarthropathies such as
 Vitiligo ankylosing spondylitis
   Sjogren's syndrome

*These diseases are also called connective tissue (muscle, skeleton, tendons, fascia, etc.) diseases.

Whether you develop an autoimmune disease could be a combination of your genetic background, and conditions present in your environment as you age.

Even with genetic background, and toxins or conditions you are exposed to throughout your life, there are other factors that could influence the development of an autoimmune disorder, including:

  • Viral infections
  • Sunlight (as with the photosensitivity associated with lupus)
  • Aging
  • Hormones, including those related to pregnancy
  • Stress

Because autoimmune disorders are a dysfunction of the immune system, factors and conditions that affect the function of that important system could trigger or worsen an autoimmune disorder.

How Does The Immune System Work?