ALERT

For the latest coronavirus care instructions and resources, please call our COVID-19 hotline at 208-381-9500. Find additional information and resources here and learn more about how we’re working to keep you healthy and safe.

toggle mobile menu Menu
toggle search menu

Site Navigation

Supplemental

Menu

Autoimmune disease

Autoimmune disease

The immune system is the body's defense against foreign substances, such as bacteria or viruses, that may be harmful. An autoimmune disease is an abnormal condition that occurs when a person's immune system attacks its own tissues as though they were foreign substances.

  • Normally, when a foreign substance enters the body, the immune system creates special cells to attack and destroy the foreign substance. These cells include antibodies and white blood cells (lymphocytes).
  • In a person with an autoimmune disease, the immune system recognizes some of the person's own tissues as foreign substances. The body makes antibodies and other cells that attack and destroy these tissues. This process often leads to inflammation and eventually, if it continues, scarring and destruction of the organs that are made up of those tissues.

Why the body attacks its own cells is not known. Autoimmune diseases include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and Sjögren's syndrome. Certain types of diabetes and thyroid disease are related to autoimmune reactions. People who have autoimmune diseases are at an increased risk for infections.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Healthwise is a URAC accredited health web site content provider. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.