Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly identifies a part of the body, such as the joints or skin, as foreign and launches an attack against it. This results in the release of autoantibodies, which target healthy cells. While the immune system’s primary role is to protect the body from harmful invaders like viruses and bacteria, in the case of autoimmune diseases, it becomes overactive and turns against itself. As a result, individuals experience uncomfortable and potentially dangerous symptoms that significantly affect their quality of life.
Although autoimmune diseases are known to affect women at higher rates, men can also develop these conditions. Some autoimmune diseases focus their attacks on specific organs, like Type 1 diabetes, which primarily affects the pancreas. In some cases, such as lupus, autoimmune disease affects many organs throughout the body. Understanding the ten most common autoimmune diseases can be helpful in recognizing symptoms and seeking proper medical evaluation.
We will explore some of the most common autoimmune diseases below:
Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is characterized by a distinctive rash resembling a butterfly shape on the face during flare-ups. However, lupus affects more than just the skin, targeting various organs like the joints, kidneys, brain, and heart. Symptoms often include joint pain, fatigue, rashes, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, confusion, dry eyes, fever, and skin lesions that worsen with sun exposure.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, leading to redness, warmth, soreness, and stiffness. RA can also affect other body systems, including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. Inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis can cause physical disabilities, although advancements in medication have improved treatment options significantly.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, resulting in uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Chronic high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and organs such as the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves. Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include excessive thirst and hunger, frequent urination, blurry vision, fatigue, weakness, and unintentional weight loss. Seeking medical attention promptly is essential if these symptoms are present.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological autoimmune disease that damages the protective coating called myelin surrounding nerve cells in the central nervous system. This damage disrupts the transmission of messages between the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body, leading to numbness, weakness, balance issues, and difficulty walking. Multiple sclerosis can progress at different rates, depending on the specific form of the disease.
Sjögren’s syndrome targets the glands responsible for lubricating the eyes and mouth, resulting in symptoms such as dry eyes, dry mouth, joint problems, skin issues, and nervous system complications. It can manifest as primary Sjögren’s syndrome or secondary Sjögren’s syndrome, associated with another connective tissue disorder. Additionally, Sjögren’s syndrome may coexist with other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or systemic sclerosis.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, on the other hand, results from an underactive thyroid, where insufficient thyroid hormones are produced. Symptoms of this condition include weight gain, sensitivity to cold, fatigue, hair loss, and the enlargement of the thyroid gland, known as a goiter.
It is crucial to recognize the signs and symptoms of these autoimmune diseases and seek medical evaluation if they are present.
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes the immune system to misfire. Yet some people are more likely to get an autoimmune disease than others. Some factors that may increaseTrusted Source your risk of developing an autoimmune disease can include:
- Your sex: People assigned female at birth between the age of 15 and 44 are more likely to get an autoimmune disease than people assigned male at birth.
- Your family history: You may be more likely to develop autoimmune diseases due to inherited genes, though environmental factors may also contribute.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to sunlight, mercury, chemicals like solvents or those used in agriculture, cigarette smoke, or certain bacterial and viral infections, including COVID-19Trusted Source, may increase your risk of autoimmune disease.
- Ethnicity: Some autoimmune diseases are more common in people in certain groups. For example, White people from Europe and the United States may be more likely to develop autoimmune muscle disease, while lupus tends to occur more in people who are African American, Hispanic, or Latino.
- Nutrition: Your diet and nutrients may impact the risk and severity of autoimmune disease.
- Other health conditions: Certain health conditions, including obesity and other autoimmune diseases, may make you more likely to develop an autoimmune disease.
What are the common symptoms of an autoimmune disease?
Different autoimmune diseases may have similar early symptoms. These can include:
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- low grade fever
- muscle aches
- trouble concentrating
- numbness and tingling in your hands and feet
- hair loss
- skin rash
With some autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis (RA), symptoms may come and go. A period of symptoms is called a flare up. A period when the symptoms go away is called remission.
Individual autoimmune diseases can also have their own unique symptoms depending on the body systems affected. For example, with type 1 diabetes, you may experience extreme thirst and weight loss. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may cause bloating and diarrhea.
Autoimmune Disorder Treatment in Houston
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Supreme Medical Center in Houston
When it comes to getting better fast, the best thing you can do is schedule an appointment with your physician at the first sign of illness. At Supreme Medical Center our doctors work with you to treat your symptoms and get you back to feeling like yourself in no time.