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Rheumatology is the medical specialty which deals with diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal diseases and autoimmune disease (rheumatic disease). These diseases can affect muscles, bones and joints causing pain, swelling, stiffness and deformity. Autoimmune diseases can also affect the organs, nervous system and eyes.
Autoimmune diseases occur when your body recognizes healthy tissue as foreign tissue, allowing the immune system to attack healthy cells. There are many types of autoimmune disease, making them difficult to diagnose.
According to AARDA, autoimmune diseases often run in families, and 75 percent of those affected are women (thought to be linked to estrogen). African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans also have an increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease.