Autoimmune diseases occur in 5-7% of the U.S. population. The incidence of autoimmune diseases is expected to increase as the average age of the population increases. Autoimmunity is closely tied to the aging process.

Autoimmune diseases may be restricted to a target organ or result in a systemic, multiorgan response (Table 1). Specific target organs are the kidney, spleen, and lung. Multiorgan responses may involve all of the organsjoints, and the skin.

It is necessary to differentiate between an autoimmune disease and autoimmune responses. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system has generated memory cells and the response continues long after the initial stimulus has been removed. In contrast, select drugs can evoke an autoimmune response. The response has the same pathophysiology of an autoimmune disease, but the symptoms abate when the drug is withdrawn. Moreover, immunological memory cells are not generated and there is no long-lasting immune response.

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