There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, but they all have one thing in common. Autoimmune diseases happen when your body can’t tell the difference between your own cells and foreign cells. When this happens, your body starts to attack your cells.
Autoimmune diseases can be tricky to diagnose because there isn’t usually a single test to run that indicates a positive or negative result. Your provider will most likely go through your health history and symptoms and use tests to narrow down what could be affecting you.
Symptoms of Autoimmune Disorders
Many of these conditions have similar symptoms, which include tiredness, pain in your joints, joint swelling, skin issues, stomach pain or digestive issues, recurring fever, or swollen glands. While these are the most common symptoms, there can be others depending on the specific disease.
Most Common Autoimmune Diseases
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
This autoimmune disease causes your body to attack your joints. These attacks can cause redness or warmth around your joints, and they can cause pain and swelling of the affected joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect people of almost any age.
Your body sheds dead skin cells and replaces them with new ones. Psoriasis causes new skin cells to grow too quickly. These cells build up and cause inflamed, red patches on your skin.
About 1/3 of people with psoriasis also develop pain in their joints. This condition is known as psoriatic arthritis.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that commonly presents with a rash on the skin. However, lupus can also affect your joints, kidneys, brain, and heart. There are several forms of lupus, but the most common is SLE, or systemic lupus erythematosus.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Your nerves have a protective coating around them called a myelin sheath. When your body attacks and destroys that coating it slows the transmission of messages from your brain to your body.
This condition, called MS, can lead to numbness, weakness, and balance trouble. The disease has several forms that vary in severity and how quickly the condition deteriorates.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Two common stomach conditions, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis fall under the autoimmune umbrella. Crohn’s disease is the result of your body attacking cells within your GI tract. Ulcerative colitis occurs when your body attacks the lining of your colon.
With some autoimmune diseases, the symptoms can come and go. When symptoms show up or get worse, it is called a flare-up. Periods without symptoms are called ‘remission’.
Another unique feature of autoimmune diseases is that they can run in families, so if a loved one is diagnosed, and you have similar symptoms, it is important to get tested. Most autoimmune diseases have simple treatment options, but they can damage your body if left untreated.
If unexplained pain, swelling, or other out-of-place symptoms are bothering you, schedule an appointment with your provider.