Autoimmune antibodies are groups of immune proteins that can be damaging to the human body, as they target tissues and organs and cause deterioration. Sometimes their presence can be a signal that trouble is brewing in the body because they can be a harbinger of disease. These are also known as autoantibodies.
When the immune system becomes confused, it cannot tell the difference between 'self' and 'non-self' proteins. Autoantibodies typically attack the wrong targets, such as healthy organs, and this confusion often results in damage to the body. In most healthy people, the immune system is able to determine what is friend or foe, but when it cannot, autoimmune diseases and hyperactive responses to stimuli — such as food, allergens — may result.
People with chronic autoimmune disorders, such as Grave’s disease, will commonly have a single organ targeted by the immune system. Blood tests and other methods of diagnosis may help to isolate what is happening in the body. Treatment for autoimmune diseases can include steroids, allergy shots, and homeopathic therapies.
There is still some element of mystery regarding autoantibodies and why they attack the body. Some doctors and scientists feel that there is a strong genetic component to the production of harmful autoimmune antibodies. There are also those who feel environmental factors, such as chemicals and pollution, play a role in their development. Research is ongoing, and there are still questions about these antibodies and why they occur.
In some cases, women are more prone to develop autoimmune antibodies. There is possibly a link between hormones and autoimmune difficulties. Women between 18 and 40 are typically more likely to develop problems with autoimmune system function, and some scientists feel particular hormones may trigger production of harmful antibodies.
Finding out whether or not a localized, or systemic, problem related to autoimmune antibodies is occurring in the body may require blood work and analysis of tissue or organs. X-rays may also help to pinpoint problems. Symptoms that signal production of antibodies can be widespread, so it may be difficult to diagnose problems based solely on how a patient is feeling. Many people go through a variety of tests and visit many doctors before they find reasons for their symptoms.
Some well-known diseases caused by autoimmune antibodies include Celiac disease, Hashimoto's Disease, and thyroid problems. There may be a higher incidence of autoimmune diseases in certain families, although each afflicted family member may suffer from a different type of disorder. Situations like this are what lead researchers to think that there is a genetic component to problems with autoimmune antibodies.