Quiz: What Do You Know About Your Immune System?

You owe your life to your immune system. Without all of those antibodies and white blood cells and other warriors working in your defense, your body would soon be overridden with infections and cancers. But there's another side to the immune system. Like an army that suddenly turns against itself, the cells of the immune system can start attacking the body, resulting in an autoimmune disease. Millions of Americans live with some form of autoimmune disease. How much do you know about these disorders? Take this short quiz to find out.

1. Which of these conditions is NOT a common autoimmune disease?

a. Type 1 diabetes

b. Psoriasis

c. Rheumatoid arthritis

d. AIDS

2. Autoimmune disorders are often contagious.

True

False

3. Autoimmune disorders often run in families.

True

False

4. Doctors can usually pinpoint the cause of an autoimmune disorder.

True

False

5. In general, women are more likely than men to develop autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

True

False

6. Which of these autoimmune disorders can be treated with drugs that suppress the immune system?

a. Multiple sclerosis

b. Psoriasis

c. Rheumatoid arthritis

d. All of the above

Your Results

1. Which of these conditions is NOT a common autoimmune disease?

The correct answer is: d. AIDS

AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is caused by a virus. While people with autoimmune disorders have an overly aggressive immune system, AIDS patients have a system that is battered and weakened. Type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis are all prime examples of autoimmune diseases. Other examples include multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and lupus.

2. Autoimmune disorders are often contagious.

The correct answer is: False.

According to the National Institutes of Health, no autoimmune disease has ever been shown to be contagious. In other words, you can't catch multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis from another person.

3. Autoimmune disorders often run in families.

The correct answer is: True.

Many autoimmune disorders are closely tied to genes. If a close relative has a disorder, you may be vulnerable, too. Interestingly, close relatives may develop different autoimmune conditions. For example, a woman with rheumatoid arthritis might have a daughter who develops lupus.

4. Doctors can usually pinpoint the cause of an autoimmune disorder.

The correct answer is: False.

The exact cause of an autoimmune disease is usually impossible to determine. A person can inherit certain genes that raise the risk of a disease, but it often takes an outside trigger -- perhaps a virus or a toxin -- to set the disease in motion. Scientists are a long way from understanding the earliest stages of autoimmune disorders, and they're even farther away from being able to prevent the diseases.

5. In general, women are more likely than men to develop autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

The correct answer is: True.

For unknown reasons, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and many other autoimmune diseases are more common in women than in men.

6. Which of these autoimmune disorders can be treated with drugs that suppress the immune system?

The correct is: d. All of the above.

Drugs that suppress the immune system are often a cornerstone of therapy for autoimmune disorders. Unfortunately, some treatments weaken the entire immune system, leaving patients vulnerable to infections. In recent years, however, scientists have developed "biologic" drugs that target certain parts of the immune system rather than the whole immune system.

References

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Understanding Autoimmune Disease.

National Institutes of Health. Medical Encyclopedia. Autoimmune disorders.

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