A weakened immune system can often lead to inflammation.

What are immune system disorders and autoimmune diseases?

Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to defend you against germs. It helps your body by recognizing these germs, then working to keep them out or, if necessary, destroying them. But, if your immune system can’t do its job, the results can be serious. Disorders of the immune system include:

  • Allergies and asthma, which are immune responses to substances that are usually not harmful
  • Immune deficiency diseases, disorders in which the immune system is missing one or more of its parts
  • Autoimmune diseases, which cause your immune system to attack your own body’s cells and tissues by mistake

What causes immune system disorders and autoimmune diseases?

No one is sure what causes autoimmune diseases. They tend to run in families. Women, in particular African American, Hispanic American, and Native American women, have a higher risk for some autoimmune diseases.

What are the symptoms of immune system disorders and autoimmune diseases?

There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, and some have similar symptoms. This might make it hard for your physician to know if you really have one of these diseases and, if so, which one.

Diagnosing these disorders can be frustrating and stressful. Often, the first symptoms are fatigue, muscle aches and a low fever. The classic sign of an autoimmune disease is inflammation, which can cause redness, heat, pain and swelling.

These diseases may also have flare-ups, when symptoms get worse, and remissions, when symptoms get better or disappear.

How does Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center treat immune system disorders and autoimmune diseases?

Treatment depends on the disease, but in most cases, one important goal is to reduce inflammation. Sometimes doctors prescribe corticosteroids or other drugs that reduce your immune response.


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