There should be more funding for researching autoimmune conditions to halt an increase in diagnoses, according to a group of charities.
Autoimmune conditions, of which type 1 diabetes is one, develop when the immune system targets apparently healthy cells within the body. To date, there are only theories as to why the immune system can act in this way.
A collection of charities representing people with autoimmune conditions called Connect Immune Research says there needs to be greater awareness about autoimmune conditions.
The collaboration has suggested autoimmune diseases need their own distinct field of research because experts are struggling to understand why the numbers of people getting them are increasing.
The calls have been made in a report published by the group, which has also revealed that some of the known 80 autoimmune conditions are rising by as much as 9% every 12 months.
In the UK, four million people live with autoimmune conditions, with many people living with at least one of these conditions. The report concluded that the conditions cost the UK more than £13 billion every year.
To mark the launch of the report aimed at MPs, an event is being staged today at parliament and people are being urged to engage on social media using the hashtag #AutoimmuneAware.
JDRFs UK Chief Executive Karen Addington said: “This alarming and unexplained rise in autoimmune conditions among the UK population must be confronted. These conditions are causing pain, difficulty and lost opportunities in work and life.”
Dr Doug Brown, who is the British Society for Immunologys Chief Executive, said: “The UK is a world leader in immunology research and we must ensure this excellence is reflected in the therapies that we can provide to patients in the clinic. The past decade has seen significant and exciting advances in our knowledge of how the immune system functions, highlighting new research avenues that we can explore to improve diagnosis, treatment and even prevention of autoimmune diseases.”