Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Falon. Falon Wonders, “what is an autoimmune disease?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Falon!

Some of our Wonder Friends know all about the immune system. It’s a very important part of the body! When germs invade, the immune system stands guard. It works hard to fight against illness.

But sometimes, the immune system gets confused. It might mistake healthy cells for germs. This causes a person’s immune system to work against them. It can hurt healthy cells and stop them from doing their jobs.

When this happens, it’s called an autoimmune disorder. There are over 80 of these disorders. They affect over 23 million people in the United States alone. Still, many people don’t know much about this type of illness.

What causes autoimmune disorders? Experts aren’t sure. Some of them seem to run in families. Some studies have also tied the disorders to stress. And they are more common in women than in men. Experts hope to find the causes through more research.

All autoimmune disorders are different. Still, they often have many of the same symptoms. The first thing many people notice is fatigue. Some also have muscle aches and fevers. It’s also common for parts of a person’s body to become swollen and painful.

How common are autoimmune disorders? Some affect more people than others. One of the most widespread is rheumatoid arthritis. It causes the immune system to attack the lining of joints. Type 1 diabetes is also prevalent. It hurts the cells that make insulin. Other common disorders include lupus, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid disorders.

Autoimmune disorders can be very unpredictable. People may have no problems at all for a long time. Then, they might have a sudden flare, which is an increase in symptoms. Doctors can help people learn what might bring about their flares. This makes it easier to know when symptoms will get worse.

A number of specialist doctors treat autoimmune disorders. That’s because so many parts of the body are affected--and because, if you have one autoimmune disorder, you’re likely to have others. None of these disorders currently have a cure. Still, doctors can help patients find treatment plans to reduce damage to their bodies. Treatment plans might include medicine, changes in the food a person eats, and many other factors. This can greatly cut back on their symptoms.

Do you know someone who has lupus? How about rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes? You might, even if you don’t know it! The best thing you can do to help is to learn more. Then, share what you learn with others. The more people know about these disorders, the more likely we are to find cures.

Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.W.4

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Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day just might make your head spin!