This occurs when, for a variety of reasons, body identifies certain of its own cells as non-self and attacks them as if they were hostile invaders. Most common of all autoimmune diseases is Rheumatoid Arthritis; other examples are Systematic Lupus Erythematosus, myasthenia gravis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, polyarteritis nodosa, temporal arteritis, and haemolytic and pernicious Anaemia. Change in immune response can be triggered off by almost any virus, by certain bacteria (Streptococcus, for example), by certain drugs (Methyldopa, for example, used to treat raised blood pressure), or by the presence in the bloodstream of cells which are not normally in circulation.
Although what goes wrong with ‘self’ and ‘non-self’ recognition mechanism is not entirely understood, it seems that the body actually produces a small number of self-hostile lymphocytes which, under normal circumstances, are continually policed and destroyed by other lymphocytes; the ‘triggers’ mentioned above may subvert this process, allowing self-hostile lymphocyte numbers to increase. Some autoimmune diseases correct themselves after a number of years.
Orthodox treatment is usually palliative; homeopathy also treats the symptoms, but most homeopaths try to promote health at a more fundamental level, giving advice on diet and nutrition, prescribing vitamin and mineral supplements, recommending various measures to eliminate body toxins, and identifying and eliminating allergens (see Allergy).