Pub. date: 2004 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952576 | Print ISBN: 9780761923602 | Online ISBN: 9781412952576| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Autoimmune Diseases: Psychosocial Aspects
Mary C. Davis & Alex J. Zautra
Autoimmune diseases result when the immune system becomes dysregulated and directs its attack not toward foreign invaders, but toward one or more aspects of the body's own healthy organ systems. The consequences of this dysregulation range from relatively mild manifestations, such as hay fever, to lifethreatening illnesses. More than 80 serious chronic autoimmune illnesses have been identified, including diseases that involve the skin and connective tissues (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis [RA]), and the endocrine (Grave's disease), nervous (e.g., multiple sclerosis), and gastrointestinal (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease) systems. The underlying causes of autoimmune diseases are still under investigation, but several prevalence patterns provide clues about factors that may contribute to their development. Because autoimmune diseases cluster in families, for example, these illnesses are thought to have a genetic component. In addition, autoimmune diseases are about 3 times as likely to occur among women compared to men, and are particularly prevalent during childbearing ...