Autoimmune Disorders: Cause & Effect

A healthy immune system defends the body against illness by attacking unfamiliar bacteria and viruses. An autoimmune disorder is a condition that causes a person’s immune system to attack otherwise healthy body tissue and cells as if they were harmful and infectious elements. Although there are over 80 different types of autoimmune disorders, some of the most common include psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and vasculitis.

 Although the causes of autoimmune disorder remain unknown, there are many theories including different bacteria and viruses, drug interactions, and other chemical and environmental factors.


Psoriasis is a skin condition that is caused by overactive T-cells that, instead of fighting off infections, attack the skin cells and cause the skin to have a dry and scaly appearance. Psoriasis outbreaks can be triggered by stress, cold weather, skin irritations such as bug bites and sunburns, and even infections in other parts of the body.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is caused when the immune system attacks the protective coat around nerve fibers. This protective fatty coat, known as myelin, protects nerves, keeps them insulated, and ensures that they function properly. Messages transmitted through nerve pathways are disrupted and blocked as a result of myelin deterioration, resulting in the symptoms commonly associated with multiple sclerosis.


 The causes of lupus are unknown, but it is believed that genetics and environmental factors are the main causes of it. Lupus may appear in someone with a predisposition for it when they come into contact with an environmental trigger. Some potential triggers include exposure to sunlight, certain types of infections, and certain anti-seizure medications, blood pressure medications and antibiotics.

 Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis destroys cartilage and bone, as well as stretches and weakens ligaments and tendons. This happens immune system attacks the lining of the membranes that surround your joints, called synovium, and causes inflammation. The causes for rheumatoid arthritis are unknown, but it is believe that environmental factors trigger the disease. 


Vasculitis, also known as angiitis and arteritis, is when the walls of blood vessels weaken, thicken, narrow, and scar. These changes restrict blood flow and create damage to organs and tissue. There are several types of vasculitis that can affect either one or multiple organs and can either be long term or short term.


Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works