FAST FACTS

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Au­toim­mune ill­nesses fall into two gen­eral cat­e­gories: lo­calised and sys­temic. Lo­calised ill­nesses af­fect cer­tain or­gans and in­clude coeliac dis­ease, type 1 di­a­betes, and thy­roid ill­nesses such as Grave’s dis­ease. Sys­temic au­toim­mune dis­eases af­fect mul­ti­ple or­gans and tis­sues, and in­clude rheuma­toid arthri­tis, scle­ro­derma and lu­pus.

Women have a higher sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to au­toim­mune ill­nesses than men, and ex­perts at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity in the US es­ti­mate that roughly 75 per cent of peo­ple with au­toim­mune dis­ease are women. Symp­toms are most likely to come on in child­bear­ing years, and although the rea­sons are largely un­clear, new re­search sug­gests that it may be due to ge­netic fac­tors linked to the X chro­mo­some.

Ev­i­dence sug­gests a link between vi­ta­min D de­fi­ciency and some au­toim­mune ill­nesses, in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, Hashimoto’s dis­ease and Crohn’s dis­ease.

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