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What is an autoimmune response?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
When your immune system cells start attacking your body's own healthy tissue just as if it were a foreign invader, like a bacteria or virus, it can lead to a whole host of illnesses-and some can be very serious. This dangerous friendly fire is called an autoimmune response.

Why does it happen? Sometimes your immune system gets tricked. A portion of the bacteria or virus may look just a little too similar to something else in your body-say, your heart cells. So your immune system cells may kill the bacteria or virus, but then also mistakenly begin attacking and destroying your own heart cells-which you obviously dearly need.

I'm just using your heart cells as an example; many organs and tissues are vulnerable to an autoimmune response-which is a mistaken assault by the very defense system that was designed to protect them. Autoimmune diseases include lupus, inflammatory bowel syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis. In the worst cases, autoimmune diseases can lead to organ failure or irreversible tissue damage.
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

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Between your full-length mirror and high-school biology class, you probably think you know a lot about the human body. While it's true that we live in an age when we're as obsessed with our bodies as...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.