"The fancier the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain" -- The human immune system is very complex and, hence, there are numerous ways it can malfunction. There are a number of diseases that can result, and many of these have similarities. It is sometimes difficult to separate them. They are also often called "connective tissue" disorders because many of them are manifested in a variety of tissues.
Hypersensitivity reactions involved in autoimmunity are primarily types II and III, though type IV reactions can also be present.
Mechanisms proposed for development of autoimmunity include:
Bypass of CD4+ T-cell tolerance of "self" antigens by:
Idiotype bypass through ligand mimicry, as seen in antireceptor antibody mediated disease, and cross-reactivity with infectious agents:
Many autoimmune diseases have serologic evidence for antibodies directed at components of "self" cell nuclei. Though these antibodies may not be the direct cause of, or evidence for, tissue injury, they are very useful for diagnosis and categorization of autoimmune diseases. The types include:
ANA (antinuclear antibody): seen in many autoimmune diseases and not diagnostic of any. In general, the higher the titer, the worse the disease. There are some characteristic fluorescent staining patterns for ANA:
Though no autoantibody is completely sensitive or specific for a particular autoimmune disease, some of the strongest associations include: