What is an AutoImmune Disease?

What is Autoimmunity?
by: Johns Hopkins Autoimmune Disease Research Center

Definition of autoimmunity. The healthy human body is equipped with a powerful set of tools for resisting the onslaught of invading microorganisms (such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites). Unfortunately, this set of tools, known as the immune system, sometimes goes awry and attacks the body itself. These misdirected immune responses are referred to as autoimmunity, which can be demonstrated by the presence of autoantibodies or T lymphocytes reactive with host antigens.

Definition of Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmunity can be the cause of a broad spectrum of human illnesses, known as autoimmune diseases and is determined by both genetic influences and environmental triggers present in everyone to some extent. This concept of autoimmunity as the cause of human illness is relatively new, and it was not accepted into the mainstream of medical thinking until the 1950s and 1960s.

The Dimensions of the Problem

Autoimmune diseases are a major threat to the health of all Americans. At least tens of millions Americans suffer from the more than eighty illnesses caused by autoimmunity. They are a special threat to women; about 75% of the patients are women. Autoimmune diseases are among the ten leading causes of death among women in all age groups up to 65.

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