What is Autoimmunity?

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It’s Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month, but what are autoimmune diseases? Good question. They occur when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks another part of the person’s own body. This response can result in a range of diseases, depending on which parts of the body are affected.

Research funded by JDRF in the 1970s and 1980s led to the discovery that type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease. In T1D, the body targets the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which helps the body convert sugar to fuel. Read below for more facts on autoimmune diseases.

  • There are more than 100 different autoimmune diseases: These include (but are not limited to):
    • Celiac and Crohn’s disease
    • Lupus
    • Multiple sclerosis
    • Narcolepsy
    • Psoriasis
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Thyroiditis
    • Type 1 diabetes
  • 24-50 million Americans have autoimmune diseases, including 1.6 million with T1D
  • 6 million Americans have more than one autoimmune disease: This includes one-fifth of the T1D community, who can experience thyroid disorders, celiac disease or Addison’s disease (in which the adrenal glands, located atop each kidney, are affected), in addition to T1D. Scientists don’t know all the reasons why autoimmune diseases tend to cluster, but certain immune processes may be involved.
  • No autoimmune disease has yet been cured: JDRF plans to change that by finding cures for T1D. We know no one has ever cured an autoimmune disease before, but we aren’t intimidated by that fact. We intend to make T1D the first autoimmune disease to be banished from our lives—and the research we fund has the potential to impact other autoimmune diseases as well.

Learn more about our research and how you can create a world without T1D.

By Alexandra Mulvey