10% of People Have an Autoimmune Disorder


Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and myasthenia gravis are all considered autoimmune disorders. These conditions occur when the immune system, which normally protects the body against infections or other illnesses, mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, cells, or organs instead. In the past, many people believed that autoimmune disorders were not very common or widespread. However, shares an article in Medical XPress, a recent population-based study suggests that around 10% of people have an autoimmune disorder. 

Exploring the Research into Autoimmune Conditions

Over the past few decades, there are certain autoimmune disorders that have risen in prevalence. For example, type 1 diabetes (T1D) is more common now than it used to be. The exact cause or trigger for autoimmune disorders is unknown; many people believe they result from a blend of genetic predisposition and environmental triggers. But because the cause is unknown, it is difficult to identify why we may see these rising levels. 

In a study published in The Lancet, a team of researchers set out to explore not just the prevalence of autoimmune disorders, but to bridge the gaps in our current understanding of geographical, environmental, and socioeconomic factors on autoimmune disorder development. 

To begin, the research team sourced anonymized health data from 22 million people within the United Kingdom. Since there are so many autoimmune disorders, the team focused specifically on the prevalence of 19 of them. These 19 conditions, which included Sjogren’s syndrome, Celiac disease, and Hashmito’s thyroiditis, are considered among the more common autoimmune disorders. The researchers found that:

  • 13% of women and 7% of men had one of these 19 autoimmune disorders, for an average of 10% between both groups. Previously, research estimated that 3-9% of people had an autoimmune disorder. Thus, this study found a slightly higher prevalence, with women being more affected; this is in-line with current understandings of autoimmune conditions.
  • Rather than genetic predisposition, the study found that environmental factors, as well as things such as high stress or smoking cigarettes, are more likely to contribute to pathogenesis (how the disease develops). 
  • Similar to some past research, this study found that people who have an autoimmune disease are more likely to have or develop a second one when compared to someone who does not have an original condition. The authors also found that this was more likely in people with endocrine or rheumatic conditions.
Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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