Have you ever wondered if your weird symptoms could be caused by something more than just a cold? The truth is that some of those symptoms might be signs of an autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune disease occurs when your body begins attacking itself. The immune system, which is supposed to protect you from infections and other threats, goes rogue and starts attacking healthy cells and tissues in your body instead. Your body is fighting itself, which means any part of it might be affected.
In this article, we’ll discuss six common symptoms of autoimmune disease. But first, let’s take a look at what autoimmune disease is.
What Is Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune diseases are a group of conditions in which your body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue.
To understand autoimmune disease, you must know how your immune system works. Your immune system protects the body from harmful substances. When it detects something harmful, it produces antibodies that attack that substance.
Sometimes the immune system misinterprets what is harmful and attacks healthy cells in the body. This is called an autoimmune reaction. In these cases, your immune system can destroy your tissues or organs instead of attacking foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses.
There are many different types of autoimmune diseases, but they all have one thing in common. The immune system attacks the body’s cells or tissues. Autoimmune diseases can affect almost any part of the body, including your joints, muscles, and connective tissue.
Common Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune diseases affect millions of people in the U.S., but they often go undiagnosed. The most common autoimmune diseases include:
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
This autoimmune disease causes inflammation in the joints, which can lead to pain and swelling. It’s most common in adults between the ages of 40-60, but it can also affect children.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation throughout the body, including the joints and organs like the heart or kidneys. While it can be managed with medication, there is no cure at this time.
Crohn’s disease is another type of autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in parts of the digestive tract (like your small intestine). It’s usually diagnosed between ages 15-35 but can equally affect people of any age group and both genders.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the thyroid gland. It affects women more often than men and can begin at any age.
Multiple sclerosis occurs when your immune system attacks your brain and spinal cord nerve cells. It causes symptoms like blurred vision and tingling sensations in your arms or legs.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes red, scaly patches to appear on the surface of your skin. It can be painful and itchy.
Autoimmune Disease Risk Factors
The following are a few of the most common autoimmune disease risk factors:
Some people are born with a genetic predisposition to develop an autoimmune disease. For example, if your mother or father had one of these conditions, you may also be at an increased risk of developing it.
The older you get, the more likely you’ll develop an autoimmune condition. This is because certain cells in our bodies become less effective at repairing themselves. These include T cells and B cells, which are responsible for helping us fight off disease.
The hormones estrogen and progesterone play an important role in regulating our immune system. When these hormones are out of balance, this can cause problems with the immune system that could lead to the development of an autoimmune disorder.
Smoking cigarettes can increase your risk of developing multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. It also increases the likelihood of flare-ups if you already have one of these conditions.
Weight is a major risk factor for autoimmune disease. Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. In fact, obesity is thought to account for around 75% of all cases of psoriasis.
Symptoms Of Autoimmune Disease
There are over 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, so it’s important to take note of any symptoms that could be related to one or more of them. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you must see your doctor right away:
Fatigue is a symptom of many different disorders, but it’s especially prevalent in autoimmune diseases. It can be caused by a number of things: a lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep, anemia, chronic pain, or even depression.
Fatigue can make it hard to get out of bed in the morning and keep up with your daily routine. You may feel like you have no energy to do anything—even simple tasks like washing dishes or getting dressed are difficult.
Moreover, fatigue can start suddenly and get worse quickly. You may feel like your body has no energy or that even simple movements are too much effort.
Joint Pain and Swelling
It’s not uncommon to experience joint pain as you get older, but if your joints are swollen and painful, it could be a sign of autoimmune disease.
If you have joint pain, it may be difficult to move or walk. Your joints may feel stiff or sore, especially if you move them. You may also notice that your joints are swollen and tender, especially in the morning.
In this case, the most common culprit is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA targets the joints, causing them to swell and become inflamed. Other symptoms include fatigue, fever, and weight loss.
Rheumatoid arthritis has no cure, but there are medications that can help manage the symptoms. Doctors may also recommend physical therapy or other treatments to help ease joint pain and swelling.
One of the most common symptoms of autoimmune disease is skin problems. Skin problems, in general, are not necessarily a sign of an autoimmune disease. Many other things, including allergies and infections can cause them. But if you notice any new skin issues or changes in your existing ones, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it as soon as possible.
The following are some of the most common skin symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases:
Rashes are typically caused by inflammation in your body, which can be caused by an autoimmune disease. They can appear anywhere on your body and are usually red or purple in color, but they may also be pale or yellowish in color, depending on where they’re located on your body.
Hives are raised bumps caused by an allergic reaction to something in your environment—like an allergen found in food or pollen from trees or grasses outside your home. They’re often small and itchy, but they can also be painful if they’re very large in size (called angioedema).
- Erythema nodosum
This is a condition where you have red patches on your legs that look like bruises due to inflammation in those areas. It’s commonly seen in people who have lupus.
Fever is the body’s reaction to an infection. It’s usually caused by the release of chemicals that trigger the body’s immune system.
In the case of autoimmune disease, recurring fever means that your body is fighting off an illness or infection. And it happens more than once in a short period of time. It’s important to note that this can be normal. Your body is fighting off something, and it needs to do so in order to survive.
However, if you have a fever for more than two weeks straight and it’s not going away, you should talk to your doctor.
Swollen glands are a common symptom of autoimmune disease. In fact, it’s one of the first things you should look for if you think you might have an autoimmune disease.
Glands are small organs that produce hormones, which help regulate your body’s functions. They can get swollen when the immune system attacks them, making them larger than normal.
A swollen gland often indicates that an infection or other condition is going on in the body. The swelling will disappear once the infection has cleared up or if you treat it with antibiotics or other medications. If you have swollen glands and haven’t been diagnosed with an infection or other condition, you should see your doctor to discuss this symptom further.
Abdominal Pain or Digestive Issues
Autoimmune diseases can cause many symptoms in different areas of the body, but one of the most common is abdominal pain. The condition may be caused by inflammation of the stomach lining and intestines. This makes it difficult to digest food properly and absorb nutrients. In some cases, this inflammation can lead to diarrhea or constipation.
In particular, Crohn’s disease can lead to abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. The pain may worsen after eating, especially after eating high-fat foods. The abdominal pain associated with Crohn’s can be mild or severe and may come and go over time.
When To Call The Doctor?
If you think you may have an autoimmune disease, don’t wait until the symptoms become unbearable. There is no cure for autoimmune diseases, but there are ways to manage them and reduce their severity.
While some people can live with autoimmune diseases for a long time, others may need to take medications and make lifestyle changes. The sooner you get diagnosed, the quicker you can begin treatment.
At our clinic, we see many patients with symptoms of autoimmune diseases. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune diseases. This serious and potentially life-threatening condition can affect nearly every major organ system in the body—from the brain to the skin.
The good news? Most of these diseases can be controlled with the right treatment plan and lifestyle changes. If you think you may be suffering from an autoimmune disease, we highly recommend you book an appointment with us. Our goal is to provide you with the best treatment options and information on managing your disease. We want you to be the game changer in your health, and we can help you get there.