Health Tip: Understanding Autoimmune Diseases

What they are, and who's more likely to get them

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(HealthDay News) -- Having an autoimmune disease means that the body's germ-fighting immune system mistakenly attacks normal cells.

The womenshealth.gov Web site says there are more than 80 known autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis.

While anyone can acquire an autoimmune disease, the site mentions these factors that increase a person's risk:

  • Being a woman of childbearing age.
  • Having a family history of one or more autoimmune diseases.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals and environmental factors.
  • Being of a particular ethnic background or race. Risk varies based on the particular disease.

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