Autoimmune disorders

Any of a number of disorders caused by a reaction of the immune system against the body’s own cells and tissues. Bacteria, viruses, and drugs may play a role in initiating an autoimmune disorder, but in most cases the trigger is unknown. Autoimmune disorders are classified into organ-specific and non-organ-specific types. In organ-specific disorders, the autoimmune process is directed mainly against one organ. Examples include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (thyroid gland), pernicious anaemia (stomach), Addison’s disease (adrenal glands), and type 1 diabetes mellitus (pancreas). In non-organ-specific disorders, autoimmune activity is towards a tissue, such as connective tissue, that is widespread in the body. Examples of non-organspecific disorders are systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. Initial treatment for any autoimmune disorder is to reduce the effects of the disease, for example by replacing hormones that are not being produced. In cases in which the disease is having widespread effects, treatment is also directed at diminishing the activity of the immune system while maintaining the body’s ability to fight disease. Corticosteroid drugs are most commonly used but may be combined with other immunosuppressant drugs.


Online Medical Dictionary: Your essential reference to over 5000 medical terms.