Thursday, December 27, 2012
Article # 158. Who gets autoimmune diseases?
Autoimmune diseases can affect anyone. Yet certain people are at greater risk, including:
· Women of childbearing age — more women than men have autoimmune diseases, which often start during their childbearing years.
· People with a family history — some autoimmune diseases run in families, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. It is also common for different types of autoimmune diseases to affect different members of a single family. Inheriting certain genes can make it more likely to get an autoimmune disease. But a combination of genes and other factors may trigger the disease to start.
· People who are around certain things in the environment — certain events or environmental exposures may cause some autoimmune diseases, or make them worse. Sunlight, chemicals called solvents, and viral and bacterial infections are linked to many autoimmune diseases.
· People of certain races or ethnic backgrounds — some autoimmune diseases are more common or more severely affect certain groups of people more than others. For instance, type 1 diabetes is more common in white people. Lupus is most severe for African-American and Hispanic people.
What Causes Autoimmune Diseases?
The causes of autoimmune diseases remain unknown. Much more research is needed to fully understand them. However, evidence is pointing to infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria. They may be important triggers in people who have a certain genetic makeup. Smoking or drugs also may trigger these chronic diseases.
· “The initiating cause can occur up to four years before any clinical symptoms appear,” Peyman says.
· “Everyone should be aware that they can reduce their risk of developing these diseases,” Peyman says. “As with cardiovascular disease and many cancers, inflammation is a major factor in the dysfunction of the immune system with autoimmune diseases. A diet rich in antioxidants and smoking cessation are good places to begin in reducing inflammation, he says.