Autoimmune Diseases

What are autoimmune diseases?

An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system (the body's natural defense system against bacteria, viruses and other foreign invaders) mistakenly attacks its own organs and tissues. There are a large number and a variety of different types (over 80) of autoimmune disease:

  1. “Organ or tissue-specific” damage,  like celiac disease and Crohn's disease-bowel; multiple sclerosis-brain/spinal cord; type 1 diabetes- pancreas and many others.

  2. “Systemic” which can cause damage widely throughout the body like lupus (SLE), or juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Girls are more likely (three times) to be affected particularly during adolescence.

What causes autoimmune diseases?

Risk factors include genetics and a family history of autoimmune disease, age with some disorders presenting in younger children, and gender.


What are the symptoms of autoimmune diseases?

Symptoms can vary widely depending on the nature and severity of the autoimmune disease that is present and can come and go.They can include fever, joint pain, skin problems, eye problems, fatigue, problems with certain body parts and a wide variety of other symptoms.

What are autoimmune disease care options?

Drugs that suppress the function of the immune system and ease symptoms include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen), drugs like methotrexate (your Pediatrician will discuss with you which one is best for your child), biologicals, corticosteroids, intravenous immunoglobulin, plasmapheresis and surgery for certain complications. Physical and occupational therapy, psychotherapy and counseling are of benefit.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: March 29, 2021 03:30 PM

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NK Cell Disorders

Natural killer, or NK cells are white blood (lymphocytes) cells which play an important role in the body’s immune system. They are part of a body’s mechanisms to control the spread of infection, destroy abnormal cells which develop in the body (like cancer cells), and when they function abnormally, they participate in the development of autoimmune diseases (where the body mistakenly attacks its own normal cells). Learn more

Juvenile Dermatomyositis

Juvenile dermatomyositis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own tissues and cells. Specifically, JDM impacts the muscles and skin in children. Learn more


Short for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, refers to a class of medications that reduce inflammation, pain and fever. Learn more


Plasmapheresis is a medical procedure that can treat autoimmune and other disorders. It involves replacing the body’s plasma to prevent it from attacking the body’s healthy cells. Learn more