About 1 in 5 – or 50 million Americans – suffer from an autoimmune disease. That number is rising, and doctors and scientists aren’t exactly sure why. Researchers have identified between 80-100 different autoimmune diseases, and suspect that at least 40 additional diseases have an autoimmune basis.
Your immune system is designed to defend and protect your body against infections and disease, however when it starts recognizing healthy cells as foreign, it starts attacking those healthy cells. This causes patients to develop an autoimmune disorder. Researchers still can’t definitively pinpoint what causes autoimmune disorders, however they have identified some risk factors, including:
- Family history of autoimmune disorders
- Exposure to environmental agents
- Previous infection (mounting evidence suggests that people who have had certain bacterial and viral infections may be at risk for some types of autoimmune disorders.)
- Gender: 75% of those suffering from autoimmune disorders are women
- Age: Younger to middle-age people are usually affected
- Ethnicity: African-American American Indian or Latino ethnicities are more likely to develop autoimmune disorders