what is an autoimmune disease?

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(If you didn’t already know, I have an autoimmune disease. It’s also classified as a “chronic illness” and a vasculitis- but note, these aren’t all the same thing. You can have a chronic illness that is NOT an autoimmune disease, and you can have an autoimmune disease that is NOT a vasculitis. That’s just the TYPE of autoimmune disease, chronic illness I have. Make sense? Or nah.

autoimmune

What is an autoimmune disease?

According to WebMD:

One job of the immune system is to protect the body from viruses, bacteria, and other living organisms. The immune system usually does not react against the body’s own cells. However, sometimes it attacks the cells it is supposed to protect; this response is called autoimmunity. Researchers think certain bacteria, viruses, toxins, and drugs trigger an autoimmune response in people who are genetically susceptible to developing an autoimmune disorder.

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What causes autoimmune disease?

Autoimmune diseases usually do not usually have a simple, single cause.  There are usually two major factors that are involved in causing them: genetics and environment.  

Genetics: Even with a genetic connection to autoimmune disease, there is no guarantee that you will develop an autoimmune disease. Something must “turn on” your immune system to trigger an autoimmune response.

Environment: Environmental factors make up more than half the risk of developing an autoimmune disease.  We know that certain environmental substances can trigger autoimmune disease.  For example, silica can trigger scleroderma; certain drugs can trigger lupus; and, in some women, pregnancy can trigger an autoimmune disease.

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What I Have To Say:

Basically, anyone can get it. Just like cancer, if your family has a history of autoimmune diseases, then you are automatically susceptible to being diagnosed, too. There a LOT of things that make this different than cancer–for one, a lot of people with autoimmune diseases start experiencing their symptoms much earlier in life. I got diagnosed when I was 21. I will have this disease for the rest of my life. What that does mean for me? Anytime I push a door open, sitting in close quarters with others who might have colds (the elevator, a train, etc.), or basically do anything in PUBLIC around anyone with a simple cold or virus, I have a higher chance of not only catching it, but it also manifesting inside of me and becoming a way bigger health issue than just the common cold or sinus infection.

What I Will Say For All Of Us:

Be mindful of your surroundings. If you have an immune system that works perfectly fine, please PLEASE keep yourself sanitized, especially if you are sick and you’re out and about. Think of those of us who aren’t able to simply just fight those types of things off.

 

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