Autoimmune Diseases

What are autoimmune diseases?

Our bodies have an immune system, which is a complex network of special cells and organs that defends the body from germs and other foreign invaders. At the core of the immune system is the ability to tell the difference between self and nonself: what’s you and what’s foreign. A flaw can make the body unable to tell the difference between self and nonself. When this happens, the body makes autoantibodies (AW-toh-AN-teye-bah-deez) that attack normal cells by mistake. 

At the same time special cells called regulatory T cells fail to do their job of keeping the immune system in line. The result is a misguided attack on your own body. This causes the damage we know as autoimmune disease. The body parts that are affected depend on the type of autoimmune disease. There are more than 80 known types.

How common are autoimmune diseases? 

Overall, autoimmune diseases are common, affecting more than 23.5 million Americans. They are a leading cause of death and disability. Yet some autoimmune diseases are rare, while others, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, affect many people.

Who gets autoimmune diseases?

Autoimmune diseases can affect anyone. Yet certain people are at greater risk, including:
  • Women of childbearing age— More women than men have autoimmune diseases, which often start during their childbearing years.
  • People with a family history — Some autoimmune diseases run in families, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis. It is also common for different types of autoimmune diseases to affect different members of a single family. Inheriting certain genes can make it more likely to get an autoimmune disease. But a combination of genes and other factors may trigger the disease to start. 
  • People who are around certain things in the environment — Certain events or environmental exposures may cause some autoimmune diseases, or make them worse. Sunlight, chemicals called solvents, and viral and bacterial infections are linked to many autoimmune diseases. 
  • People of certain races or ethnic backgrounds — Some autoimmune diseases are more common or more severely affect certain groups of people more than others. For instance, type 1 diabetes is more common in white people. Lupus is most severe for African-American and Hispanic people.
What autoimmune diseases affect women, and what are their symptoms? 

Immune


The diseases listed here either are more common in women than men or affect many women and men. They are listed in A-to-Z order. Although each disease is unique, many share hallmark symptoms, such as fatigue, dizziness, and low-grade fever. For many autoimmune diseases, symptoms come and go, or can be mild sometimes and severe at others. When symptoms go away for a while, it’s called remission. Flares are the sudden and severe onset of symptoms.
Types of Autoimmune Diseases & Their Symptoms

1. Alopecia areata (Al-uh-PEE-shuh AR-ee-AYT-uh)The immune system attacks hair follicles (the structures from which hair grows). It usually does not threaten health, but it can greatly affect the way a person looks.

Symptoms
  • Patchy hair loss on the scalp, face, or other areas of your body
2. Antiphospholipid (an-teye-FOSS-foh-lip-ihd)  antibody syndrome (aPL)
A disease that causes problems in the inner  in arteries or veins.

Symptoms
  • Blood clots in veins or arteries 
  • Multiple miscarriages 
  • Lacy, net-like red rash on the wrists and lining of blood vessels resulting in blood clots knees
3. Autoimmune hepatitis
The immune system attacks and destroys the liver cells. This can lead to scarring and hard-ening of the liver, and possibly liver failure.

Symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Enlarged liver
  • Yellowing of the skin or whites of eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Joint pain
  • Stomach pain or upset
4. Celiac disease
A disease in which people can’t tolerate gluten, a substance found in wheat, rye, and barley, and also some medicines. When people with celiac disease eat foods or use products that have gluten, the immune system responds by damaging the lining of the small intestines.

Symptoms
  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Itchy skin rash
  • Infertility or miscarriages
5. Diabetes type 1
A disease in which your immune system attacks the cells that make insulin, a hormone needed to control blood sugar levels. As a result, your body cannot make insulin. Without insulin, too much sugar stays in your blood. Too high blood sugar can hurt the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth. But the most serious problem caused by diabetes is heart disease.

Symptoms
  • Being very thirsty 
  • Urinating often 
  • Feeling very hungry or tired 
  • Losing weight without trying 
  • Having sores that heal slowly 
  • Dry, itchy skin 
  • Losing the feeling in your feet or having tingling in your feet 
  • Having blurry eyesight
6. Graves’ disease (overactive thyroid)
A disease that causes the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone.

Symptoms
  • Being very thirsty 
  • Urinating often 
  • Feeling very hungry or tired 
  • Losing weight without trying 
  • Having sores that heal slowly 
  • Dry, itchy skin 
  • Losing the feeling in your feet or having tingling in your feet 
  • Having blurry eyesight
7. Guillain-Barre (GEE-yahn bah-RAY) syndrome 
The immune system attacks the nerves that connect your brain and spinal cord with the rest of your body. Damage to the nerves makes it hard for them to transmit signals. As a result, the muscles have trouble responding to the brain. 

Symptoms 
  • Weakness or tingling feeling in the legs that might spread to the upper body 
  • Paralysis in severe cases 
Symptoms often progress relatively quickly, over a period of days or weeks, and often occur on both sides of the body.
Source: (Meyda Azzahra)