Autoimmune Diseases

The immune system is the body’s defense that fights against invaders such as germs, bacteria, viruses, and others. If your body’s defense does not work properly as usual, it may lead to some diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and other autoimmune diseases. The common symptoms you may experience are fatigue, dizziness, depression, rashes, pain, and others.

What are Autoimmune Diseases?

The body’s defense consists of organs and cells meant to protect you from parasites, bacteria, and other invaders. If your immune system attacks your body instead of protecting it, this may lead to autoimmune diseases. However, it is not clear why the body’s defense does this.

There are about 100 autoimmune diseases and the most common are lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. These diseases can cause damage to your tissues and nearly organs and provoke symptoms such as fatigue, rashes, nausea, headaches, dizziness, pain, and others. Symptoms usually depend on the exact health condition.

In addition, it is not clear why the immune system attacks you. However, experts have some theories on why this occurs but it needs more research.

List of Autoimmune Diseases

There are different autoimmune diseases. Check below some of the most common of them:

Health conditions of the joints and muscles:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Systemic Lupus erythematosus (Lupus, SLE)

Diseases of the digestive tract:

  • Celiac disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease

Diseases of the endocrine system:

  • Graves’ disease
  • Addison’s disease
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Health conditions of the skin:

  • Psoriasis
  • Dermatomyositis

Diseases of the nervous system:

  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP)
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome

Other health conditions:

  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Autoimmune vasculitis
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Vasculitis
  • Pernicious anemia

Are autoimmune diseases common?

This type of health condition is more common in females than males. About 1 in 15 people in the U.S. suffers from an autoimmune disease. Additionally, roughly one million people experience lupus and 1.4 million people suffer from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis in the U.S.

Autoimmune diseases are not contagious and can start in families. Furthermore, these health conditions are one of the top 10 causes of death in females in all age groups (up to 64 years old).

There are some autoimmune diseases that may negatively affect your ability to become pregnant. In such cases, you may need fertility treatments. Moreover, there is a higher risk of stillbirth or preterm birth if you are suffering from lupus or myasthenia gravis.


Check below some symptoms categorized by health conditions:

Health conditions of the joints and muscles:

  • Muscles pains and aches
  • Joint stiffness, swelling, and pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Inflammation

Diseases of the digestive tract:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Food sensitivities
  • Blood or mucus in the stool (poop)
  • Acid reflux

Health conditions of the skin:

  • Itching
  • Rashes
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin, eyes, and mouth

Diseases of the nervous system:

  • Headaches
  • Sleeping disturbances (insomnia)
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion and difficulty thinking
  • Mental disorders (such as anxiety and depression)
  • Dizziness
  • Memory problems
  • Migraines
  • Lightheadedness
  • Numbness and tingling

Other health conditions:

  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Swollen glands
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Temperature sensitivity
  • Shortness of breath

If you experience any of the symptoms listed above or any others, immediately contact a healthcare provider.


The exact cause of an autoimmune disease is not known but there are some risk factors that may elevate your chance to get this type of health condition. For example:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Infections
  • Approximately 78% of women have an autoimmune disease
  • Exposure to toxins
  • This health condition may occur as a side effect of medicines (including statins, antibiotics, drugs for blood pressure, and others)

In addition, some autoimmune diseases are easy to treat while others may last lifelong.


Diagnosing an autoimmune disease takes longer than other health conditions. Many symptoms of this type of disease are very similar to other conditions. Check below how you can help your physician to determine what condition you are suffering from:

  • Share a list of symptoms you experience
  • Inform about family history and tell your healthcare provider if someone in your family experiences an autoimmune disease

In addition, your physician may order to do some tests. For example:

  • Antinuclear antibody test (ANA)
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)

Some symptoms alongside certain blood markers may show that you experience an autoimmune disease.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for autoimmune diseases. However, symptoms can be managed with a suitable treatment. Check below some examples of medicines used in the treatment of an autoimmune disease:

  • Painkillers
  • Insulin injections
  • Drugs for mental disorders (such as anxiety and depression)
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines
  • Sleeping drugs
  • Plasma exchanges
  • Corticosteroids
  • Intravenous immune globulin
  • Medications that suppress your body’s defense
  • Rash cream and tablets

Furthermore, your doctor may prescribe alternative drugs and procedures. Examples include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Herbs
  • Hypnosis
  • Chiropractic procedures

Usually, the following healthcare providers should be visited in autoimmune disease cases. For example Rheumatologists, Gastroenterologists, Endocrinologists, and Dermatologists. Alongside medications, your physician should prescribe a nutrition plan and exercises.


Commonly, you have nothing to do that will help to prevent an autoimmune disease. In any case, experts suggest the following tips that may help. Examples include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Quit smoking
  • Adopt a healthy and nutritious diet
  • Limit processed foods
  • Avoid toxins

Talk with your doctor for more details.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I go to the emergency department?

Usually, you should go if experience severe symptoms. Check below some examples:

  • Severe pain
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Unexplained weakness
  • Unable to move
  • Severe chest pain or pressure
  • Breathing problems
  • Prolonged dizziness

Is it possible to escape from an autoimmune disease without treatment?

However, there are known cases in which an autoimmune disease disappears itself. Anyway, most of them are chronic (may last their entire life).

What is an autoimmune diet?

This type of diet aims to manage inflammation through an elimination diet. By removing foods from your diet, you can determine your body’s reaction. During elimination, you may eat moderate amounts of fresh fruits, bone broth, low amounts of processed meat, and others. If you have any questions, talk with your healthcare provider.

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