What happens in autoimmune diseases like lupus?

Lupus Foundation of America

Resource Content

In lupus, something goes wrong with the immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (“foreign invaders,” like the flu).

Normally our immune systems produce antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Antibodies are proteins in the blood that the body produces to fight off foreign agents. Antibodies do this by creating an immunity against unfamiliar microorganisms. 

Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue ("auto" means "self").

These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body. Lupus is also a disease of flares (the symptoms worsen and you feel ill) and remissions (the symptoms improve and you feel better).

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