A new study has revealed that one in 10 people in the UK have autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

The researchers analysed the health records of 22 million people and 10% of them had at least one autoimmune condition, an increase from previous estimates of 3% to 9%.

As experts do not know the cause of autoimmune disorders, the study emphasises the need to examine what leads to developing autoimmune diseases, which are when your own immune system attacks and damages healthy body tissue.

Professor Geraldine Cambridge, from University College London and senior author of the paper, said: “Our study highlights the considerable burden that autoimmune diseases place upon individuals and the wider population.

“Disentangling the commonalities and differences within this large and varied set of conditions is a complex task.

“There is a crucial need, therefore, to increase research efforts aimed at understanding the underlying causes of these conditions, which will support the development of targeted interventions to reduce the contribution of environmental and social risk factors.”

Some experts suggest that genetics and environmental factors are likely to play a part in developing autoimmune disorders.

Due to cases of some disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, increasing in recent times, the study was conducted to assess whether cases of autoimmune disorders are also increasing.

Researchers analysed the health records for the 19 most common autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, coeliac disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, Addison’s disease and vitiligo.

Results found that 13% of women and 7% of men had at least one of the autoimmune diseases. The researchers also found that other factors, such as smoking and obesity, can contribute to developing autoimmune diseases. Additionally, they found that already having an autoimmune disorder makes someone more likely to developing another.

First author of the study, Dr Nathalie Conrad from the Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health at the University of Oxford, explained: “We observed that some autoimmune diseases tended to co-occur with one another more commonly than would be expected by chance or increased surveillance alone.

“This could mean that some autoimmune diseases share common risk factors, such as genetic predispositions or environmental triggers. This was particularly visible among rheumatic diseases and among endocrine diseases.

“But this phenomenon was not generalised across all autoimmune diseases – multiple sclerosis, for example, stood out as having low rates of co-occurrence with other autoimmune diseases, suggesting a distinct pathophysiology.”

The study was published in the journal, The Lancet.

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