Autoimmune disorders are conditions in which a person's immune system attacks the body's own cells, causing tissue destruction.
Autoimmunity is accepted as the cause of a wide range of disorders, and it is suspected to be responsible for many more. Autoimmune diseases are classified as either general, in which the autoimmune reaction takes place simultaneously in a number of tissues, or organ specific, in which the autoimmune reaction targets a single organ.
Autoimmune disorders include the following:
Systemic lupus erythematosus. A general autoimmune disease in which antibodies attack a number of different tissues. The disease recurs periodically and is seen mainly in young and middle-aged women.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the tissues that line bone joints and cartilage. The disease occurs throughout the body, although some joints may be more affected than others.
Goodpasture's syndrome. Occurs when antibodies are deposited in the membranes of both the lung and kidneys, causing both inflammation of kidney glomerulus (glomerulonephritis) and lung bleeding. It is typically a disease of young males.
Grave's disease. Caused by an antibody that binds to specific cells in the thyroid gland, causing them to make excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Caused by an antibody that binds to cells in the thyroid gland. Unlike in Grave's disease, however, this antibody's action results in less thyroid hormone being made.
Myasthenia gravis. A condition in which the immune system attacks a receptor on the surface of muscle cells, preventing the muscle from receiving nerve impulses and resulting in severe muscle weakness.