A common health problem affecting 1 in 10

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A new large-scale study published in The Lancet shows that around one in ten people are now affected by autoimmune diseases, making these diseases more common than previously thought.

The study also uncovers significant socioeconomic, seasonal, and regional differences among several autoimmune diseases and offers new insights into the possible causes of these diseases.

Understand autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy cells instead of fighting off infection.

There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Some of these diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, have increased over the past few decades, leading researchers to question whether environmental or behavioral changes could lead to an increase in the overall incidence of autoimmune diseases.

However, the exact causes of these diseases and the extent to which genetic or environmental factors contribute are largely unknown.

The challenge in researching autoimmune diseases

Research into autoimmune diseases is challenging due to their rarity and the great variety of different types.

To solve this problem, a consortium of experts from several universities, including KU Leuven, University College London, the University of Glasgow and the University of Oxford, worked together to analyze a comprehensive data set of anonymized electronic health records from the UK, which includes 22 million people.

The results: prevalence and co-occurrence of autoimmune diseases

The researchers focused on 19 of the most common autoimmune diseases and examined trends over time, the population groups most affected and the coexistence of different autoimmune diseases.

They found that these diseases affect about 10% of the population overall – a higher figure than previous estimates.

Women were more affected than men, with 13% of women and 7% of men diagnosed with at least one of the autoimmune diseases studied.

In addition, the study uncovered socioeconomic, seasonal, and regional differences among several autoimmune diseases.

The researchers suggest that these disparities are unlikely to be solely due to genetic differences, as potentially modifiable risk factors such as smoking, obesity and stress play a role in the development of these diseases.

In particular, the study confirmed that people with one autoimmune disease have a higher risk of developing another.

This phenomenon was particularly striking in rheumatic and endocrine diseases, suggesting possible common risk factors.

However, this pattern was not universal across autoimmune diseases, suggesting different disease mechanisms for conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Research team comments

dr Nathalie Conrad, the paper’s first author, noted, “We observed that some autoimmune diseases tended to co-occur more frequently than might be expected from chance or increased surveillance alone.”

This suggests that these diseases share common risk factors such as genetic predisposition or environmental triggers.

Lead author Professor Geraldine Cambridge emphasized the significant burden that autoimmune diseases place on individuals and society.

She stressed the need for increased research to understand the underlying causes of these diseases, which will support the development of targeted interventions to reduce the impact of environmental and social risk factors.

The study entitled “Incidence, prevalence and co-occurrence of autoimmune diseases over time and by age, gender and socioeconomic status: a population-based cohort study of 22 million people in the UK” represents a significant advance in our understanding of autoimmune diseases and research their impact on public health.

If liver health is important to you, please read studies on it dairy products linked to liver cancer, And Coffee drinkers can cut their risk of liver cancer in half.

For more information on heart health, see recent studies removing plaque that causes heart attacks and the results showing a new way to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

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