Autoimmune diseaseAn autoimmune disease is a disease whose cause lies in the body's immune system. Autoimmune diseases can, depending on the disease, attack any tie and all organs. Therefore, very different symptoms are possible. Because an autoimmune disease cannot be treated causally, it usually accompanies the sufferer for the rest of his or her life. In most cases, however, the symptoms can be alleviated with certain medications.
How common are autoimmune diseases? Autoimmune diseases affect many people. These are among the most common chronic diseases in Germany. For several decades, doctors have been registering an increasing number of people affected, which is mainly due to the fact that the examination methods and thus the diagnostic possibilities for autoimmune diseases are becoming better and better.
Common autoimmune diseases
Crohn's disease – what the disease means Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that usually progresses in episodes. Read more about causes, symptoms and therapy!
Ulcerative colitis Ulcerative colitis is a chronic, episodic inflammation of the intestines. Read all important information here!
What is an autoimmune disease? Attack in an autoimmune disease. destroy the body's own tie. Which tie is attacked depends on the type of immune disease. Normally, the immune system only acts against material that is foreign to the body and can be harmful to the organism, i.e. mainly pathogens such as viruses, bacteria or fungi. Recognizing the body's own structures. Tolerate the defenses against it. The distinction between "endogenous" and "foreign" is possible because each body cell carries certain molecules on its cell membrane that identify it as belonging to the body. Foreign structures do not have these molecules (or carry others). Are therefore attacked by the immune system.
In the case of an autoimmune disease, this distinction is no longer possible: the immune system mistakes certain structures in the body for foreign and tries to destroy the supposed invaders. Depending on the autoimmune disease, different components of the immune system are involved in this process. On the one hand, certain cells (z.B. T-lymphocytes), but also special proteins called antibodies. If antibodies behave autoimmune, i.e. they attack the own body, they are called autoantibodies.
An autoimmune disease should not be confused with an allergy. In the case of allergies, the immune system does not behave autoimmunistically, but rather considers harmless foreign material to be threatening and then reacts excessively to it.
What autoimmune diseases are there?
There are a large number of autoimmune diseases, some of which present themselves in very different ways. In addition to those mentioned above, these include more rare diseases.
Which organs are affected by autoimmune diseases?
An autoimmune reaction can be directed against a wide variety of structures in the patient's own body and can therefore attack any organ. Systemic autoimmune diseases sometimes affect not only a single organ, but several at the same time.
Autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland
If the misdirected immune system is directed against the thyroid gland, this leads to an inflammation (thyroiditis) and – depending on the type of autoimmune disease – to an over- or underfunction of the thyroid gland. The two most common autoimmune thyroid diseases are Graves' disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The skin is particularly often affected by autoimmunity. Is damaged by many autoimmune diseases. Examples are lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, dermatomyositis, lichen sclerosus or sarcoidosis.
Sarcoidosis – what the disease means Sarcoidosis (Boeck's disease) is an inflammatory disease that mostly affects the lungs. Read more about symptoms, treatment and prognosis of sarcoidosis!
Lupus erythematosus – what the disease means Lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease. The immune system mistakenly sees the body's own cell structures as foreign and attacks them.
Autoimmune disease of the liver
The liver can also be a target of the patient's own immune system. In autoimmune hepatitis, immune cells and autoantibodies attack liver cells, causing inflammation of the liver. Some forms of kidney inflammation are autoimmune-mediated. The adrenal gland can also be affected by an autoimmune reaction. For example, Addison's disease, a form of adrenal hypofunction, is often triggered by the body's own defenses.
Hepatitis Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It is caused, for example, by viruses, alcohol, drugs or the patient's own immune system. Read more about hepatitis.
Kidney inflammation There are different forms of kidney inflammation (nephritis). Learn everything you need to know about symptoms here. Treatment of this kidney disease!
Addison's disease Addison's disease is a rare, severe disease of the adrenal gland. Read how to recognize and treat Addison's disease!
Autoimmune disease of the intestine
Autoimmune diseases are often behind chronic complaints of the digestive tract. Examples are Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease.
Autoimmune disease of the eye
The eyes are also not exempt from damage caused by autoimmune processes. In connection with some autoimmune diseases, the vascular membrane of the eye can become inflamed (uveitis). In Sjogren's syndrome, the eye dries out, which often leads to corneal and conjunctival inflammation in affected individuals.
Celiac disease Celiac disease is usually accompanied by inflammation of the small intestine. Diarrhea and flatulence are often present. Read all about the right diet for celiac disease!
Uveitis In uveitis, the middle skin of the eye is inflamed. The eye is usually red and painful. Read here everything important about uveitis!
Sjogren's syndrome Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes dry eyes and dry mouth in particular. Read more about Sjogren's syndrome!
Other autoimmune diseases
In addition to the examples mentioned above, autoimmune disease can affect various other structures and organs of the body, such as the nerves, blood vessels, lungs, pancreas, or heart.
Autoimmune disease: symptoms
The symptoms of patients with an autoimmune disease depend primarily on which organs the immune system attacks. Examples of possible symptoms include:
Autoimmune disease: causes and risk factors
The exact causes for the development of an autoimmune disease are not yet known. However, medical experts are certain that both genetic influences and environmental conditions are important. Autoimmune diseases, for example, run in families and there are also differences in frequency between certain ethnic groups and cultures.
Environmental factors that have an influence on the development and expression of autoimmune diseases are, for example, infections, stress, pregnancy and certain medications.
Autoimmune disease: diagnosis
There are many different methods for diagnosing and monitoring autoimmune diseases. One of them is to look for those autoantibodies in the blood that are directed against the body's own tie.
Autoimmune disease: treatment
To be able to cure autoimmune disease is the wish of many medical professionals and patients. However, as long as the actual triggers are not known, no causal (causal) therapy is possible. Thus, forms of treatment available today only alleviate discomfort. These include, among others:
In the therapy also different factors play a role, which can take influence on an autoimmune disease. Nutrition, climate, stress level and other aspects should therefore be included in the treatment concepts.