Auto-Immune Diseases: Type I Diabetes
Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body.
It seems counter-productive for our immune system to attack our own bodies, but scientists think that there is a naturally occurring level of autoimmunity that is going on all the time in humans and other higher animals. When this autoimmunity starts to harm the body it is called an autoimmune disease. Scientists still don’t completely understand why the immune system does this and why only certain individuals are affected while others are not, but they can draw many conclusions: genetics, drugs, viruses, and certain chemicals all seem to be associated with autoimmune disease.
There are over 80 different types of immune disorders, but some of the most common are Lupus Erythematosus, thyroid disorder, Mutliple Sclerosis, arthritis, celiac disease, and Type I Diabetes, to name a few. Some of these diseases affect only a specific organ or tissue in the body, so they are localized; others can affect the whole body, and are termed systemic. Localized diseases attack a specific area of the body, like tissues and joints, the nervous system, the blood, and the pancreas for example. Metabolism, muscular movement, brain function—these are just some of the body’s major functions that can be de-regulated by autoimmune disorders. The body is a highly interconnected system, so once one organ or individual system is attacked, the autoimmune disease can damage and de-regulate many other functions of the body.
Type I Diabetes is an autoimmune disease where a rare error occurs and the immune cells attack some special cells in the pancreas.
Autoimmune diseases have a tendency to be more prevalent in women than in men. About 75% of autoimmune diseases affect women. Some scientists believe that women have more complex immune systems than men, and so are more susceptible to complications, usually set off by pregnancy.