If anyone asked you what genre of diseases is the second most common cause of chronic illness in the U.S., what would your answer be? Hopefully you’d get the correct answer and say autoimmune disease, but I have a feeling that is very unlikely. It seems that while more and more people are being diagnosed with autoimmune illnesses, there is still a huge lack of understanding and awareness of this plethora of diseases.
What is autoimmune disease? If we break down the word, you can see that it starts with “aut,” which comes from the ancient Greek word for “self.” I would hope you know that “immune” refers to the body’s immune system. So, autoimmune or “self-immune-system” diseases are those in which a patient’s immune system is attacking itself. The body’s mechanisms can no longer differentiate between foreign bodies and friendly bodies. Normally, the system’s white blood cells help protect the body, but the immune response in autoimmune patients destroys normal body tissue and foreign tissue alike. Think of it as friendly fire on a very minute scale.