Autoimmune disease, or also known as auto-inflammatory disease is a group of diseases that may not be well known to the public, unlike dengue fever for example. However, the disease is not too far behind in terms of number of cases, especially in the developed countries. Eczema or ‘ekzema’ is a simple example. What does having autoimmune disease mean?
The immunity of our body is very important to ensure that an individual is able to fight off any infection. The body’s immune system will attack everything from outside the body that is considered as foreign object, including bacteria and viruses. When a person gets an autoimmune disease, the immune system acts unusually by attacking the cells and organs of the body itself. Like we mentioned earlier, the autoimmune disease itself is a group of diseases that encompasses a number of more specific diseases. What are the factors that can cause such diseases to occur?
One of the main factors in development of autoimmune disease is the family factor, or to be more precise the family history. Patients with auto-inflammatory disease often have a history of family members who are also affected by this group of diseases. This is because there are autoimmune diseases that are related to genetic elements that can be passed down from parents to their children. Two patients from the same family may not get the same specific disease but are more likely to get two different diseases related to the same genetic material.
The next factor is gender. Although the disease is experienced by both men and women, women are generally more susceptible to autoimmune diseases. More than 70 percent of autoimmune patients are among women. According to some studies, this can be attributed to the female hormones status which makes this group more at risk for this serious disease.
There are also patients who start developing autoimmune diseases after they have been infected with a virus or bacteria. For example, parvovirus B19 is associated with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) disease, a serious autoimmune disease that can attack many important organs including the brain, heart and kidneys.
What about smoking habits? An unhealthy practice that is often associated with a number of dangerous diseases, including autoimmune diseases. This deadly habit, while it is weakening the body’s response to infection, is also found to increase the level of inflammation in the body which is one of the triggers of autoimmune diseases. Examples of autoimmune diseases that have been linked to smoking are rheumatoid arthritis, SLE and multiple sclerosis.
In addition, exposure to toxins is one of the causes, too. One theory that may explain this condition is the theory of free radical formation that occurs when a person with a genetic predisposition is exposed to toxins for a period of time. These free radicals are capable of damaging the cells of the human body. These damaged cells then have the potential to be attacked by the immune system. This is a theory by Dr. Thomas Nissen, an expert in environmental health.
Nutritional factors also play a role in the occurrence of autoimmune diseases. Nutrition is said to have a role in the body’s immune processes. However, it is still not fully known how exactly nutrition can affect these processes.
Such diseases are currently on the rise in developing and developed countries. This is in contrast to third world countries which are facing more health problems involving nutrition. Although this group of diseases is less known, they are very serious and can be deadly. Our society needs to be more aware of the existence of autoimmune disease and its causes so that the modifiable causes can be avoided.