About 5 million French people are affected by an autoimmune disease. Under this term, there are actually nearly 80 very different pathologies (psoriasis, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, etc.). These diseases are all characterized by a dysfunction of the immune system.
If research continues to advance, is there a treatment to cure an autoimmune disease? Find out everything you need to know about this type of pathology (promoting factors, treatment to calm the symptoms, etc.).
What is an autoimmune disease?
Autoimmune diseases affect approximately 5 million French people. But how do we recognize them? The particularity of this type of disease is to result from a dysfunction of the immune system. In response to external aggression (virus, bacteria, etc.), the immune system attacks the body instead of acting as a shield by protecting it.
Today, research is advancing to try to understand the mechanism of autoimmune diseases and their contributing factors. If currently, there is no cure for this kind of pathology, on the other hand, there are treatments to soothe certain symptoms.
Here are examples of autoimmune diseases: psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, vitiligo, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, lupus… All these very different pathologies have in common that they correspond to chronic diseases triggered by the loss of immunological tolerance of the body against its own constituents.
Can you catch an autoimmune disease?
An autoimmune disease is not contagious and therefore cannot be caught like the flu or another virus.
Indeed, this kind of pathology results from a dysfunction of the immune system. This attacks the normal constituents of the organism instead of protecting them in the event of a virus, bacterium, etc. For example, a bacterium present in the intestinal flora can leave the intestine to activate the immune system in other organs. And thus, trigger an autoimmune disease.
So you don’t catch multiple sclerosis or psoriasis, for example, by being around someone with these diseases. It is a pathology present inside oneself, hence its name.
How do you know if you have an autoimmune disease?
The first thing to do is an exploration to establish the diagnosis of the affected organs.
Then, a blood test can be used to look for inflammation. It also directs towards the severity of the attacks and allows to explore the immunological assessment, with search for auto-antibodies.
Finally, possible complications are systematically sought.
Can an autoimmune disease be cured?
Unfortunately, today there is no treatment or cure for autoimmune disease like multiple sclerosis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, etc.
These are complex diseases for which researchers are trying to develop new therapeutic strategies. The objective is then to control the immune system without the risk of lowering its guard vis-à-vis pathogens.
However, researchers have developed ways to ease the suffering of patients. To soothe the pain of people with an autoimmune disease, there are treatments to calm certain symptoms. These remedies can reduce or even completely eliminate the symptoms caused by the disease. It is then a treatment to be taken for life.
Who can be affected by autoimmune disease?
Today, it is estimated that 5 to 8% of the world’s population is affected by an autoimmune disease. This represents no less than 5 million people in France.
In addition, the number of autoimmune diseases has been growing since the 1970s. Currently, there are about 80. And unfortunately, the list tends to grow over the years.
Gender: man or woman ?
Some autoimmune diseases are more commonly seen in men than women. Among them is type 1 diabetes.
However, it is found that 80% of people with an autoimmune disease are female. This is partly due to the endogenous factor that promotes the occurrence of the disease in women. Indeed, female hormones play an important role in the appearance of so-called autoimmune pathologies.
Age of disease onset
With regard to the criterion of age, we can say that it remains very variable. For a number of autoimmune diseases, the age at which the pathology occurs has decreased in recent decades. Thus, type 1 diabetes is no longer just common in adolescents and young adults. Now, it is not uncommon to diagnose it in young children.
Factors that promote the onset of an autoimmune disease
Most of the time, autoimmune diseases are multifactorial. It is therefore difficult to determine the exact origin as it can result from many factors.
The majority of autoimmune diseases are considered to be dependent on genetic susceptibility. This means that their development is favored by one or more genetic particularities.
This is mainly seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes or celiac disease.
The monogenic origin concerns some rare autoimmune diseases. In this case, the mutation of a single gene is responsible for the pathology, which takes a severe form.
It is also necessary to take into account the influence of female hormones in the onset of an autoimmune disease. This partly explains why women are more often affected by these autoimmune diseases than men. Indeed, 80% of patients are female.
Chronic inflammation also plays a role as a contributing factor in the onset of an autoimmune disease.
The studies carried out by the researchers have found that there is also an association between the intestinal microbiota and the occurrence of an autoimmune disease. The intestinal microbiota is at the interface between the immune system and the environment.
Exogenous and environmental factor
Exposure to certain compounds and pathogens may be associated with the risk of autoimmune diseases. For example, active or former smoking is overrepresented among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune dysthyroidism.
On the other hand, certain environmental pollutants, ultraviolet rays, stress or even nutrition are also suspected of being important in the appearance of this type of pathology. However, their role has yet to be demonstrated by studies.