80 Types of Autoimmune Diseases
Did you know there are many more than 80 types of autoimmune disorders? So I promise not to list all of them. I will briefly cover the more common autoimmune diseases that I haven’t written about in the past. Some of the most well-known autoimmune diseases are Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Disease, and Systemic Lupus, so there is a wealth of information on the internet. You can read detailed information on those diseases.
In a normal person, the body’s immune response protects them from invading diseases and infections. In a person with an autoimmune disorder, things have gone haywire. Your body doesn’t recognize invaders from your healthy tissue, your white blood cells or T cells attack healthy organs. They can virtually affect every part of your body. These diseases usually attack women, particularly prevalent in African-American and Native-American women.
Many autoimmune disorders have similar symptoms, which makes a diagnosis that much more difficult. Often this process is frustrating, as your first symptoms are fatigue, muscle aches, and low fever.
The diseases sometimes flare-up and sometimes go into remission. Most autoimmune diseases affect women more often than men, but men seem to become very ill more frequently.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is another chronic inflammatory disorder that affects not just your joints, but many other organs as well. This disease is different from osteoarthritis as it affects the lining of your joints. This may result in the painful joints, bone erosion and deformity of the joints.
The symptoms of this disease include:
- Tender, warm, swollen joints
- Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity
- Fatigue, fever and weight loss
It can also attack your lungs, your heart, your eyes, skin and blood vessels. While there have been new drugs placed on the market, this can be a very debilitating disease.
The earlier the inflammation can be stopped the better. Aggressive treatment with medications is important. Prednisone, NSAIDs, methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine, leflunomide, cyclophosphamide, and azathioprine, all typical medications for this disease.
Celiac disease is another autoimmune disease characterized by an inappropriate immune response to dietary proteins found in wheat, rye, barley (gluten and gliadin).
This response leads to inflammation of the small intestine and it damages and destroys the villi that line the intestinal wall. These villi are projections (small folds) that increase the surface area of the intestine and allow nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fluids, and electrolytes to be absorbed into the body.
When the villi are destroyed, the body is much less capable of absorbing food and begins to develop symptoms associated with malnutrition and malabsorption. When the body is exposed to the gluten and gliadin proteins, it forms antibodies that recognize and act against not only the grain-proteins, but also against constituents of the intestinal villi. As long as the patient continues to be exposed to the proteins, he will continue to produce these auto-antibodies.
Celiac disease is most prevalent in those of European descent, probably inherited, can affect anyone at any age. It is thought to be an inherited tendency that is triggered by an environmental, emotional, or physical event.
The possible symptoms include:
- abdominal pain and distention
- bleeding tendency
- bloody stool
- bone and joint pain
- changes in dental enamel
- greasy foul-smelling stools
- oral ulceration, weakness
- weight loss.
Children with this disease may experience delayed growth and development. It is estimated that 1 in 133 people in the US have celiac disease but only 3% have been diagnosed.
Patients with celiac disease must follow a lifelong gluten-free diet .Once all forms of wheat, rye, and barley have been removed from the diet the patient improves.
It is important to detect and treat celiac disease as soon as possible, especially in young children. Celiac disease should be considered in infants who are not thriving, since foods with gluten are common Celiac auto-antibodies may begin to develop shortly after a child switches from milk to solid foods. In most cases the patient can lead a normal life by adhering to the diet.
Fortunately there are many gluten free foods available today.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Systemic lupus is one of the diseases where your body attacks the skin, joints, blood cells, kidneys, brain, and other organs. The sun, infections and certainly medications can trigger a flare up. A "butterfly rash" is a facial rash, resembling the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks with a red rash.
While this is not considered a genetic disease, it does tend to run in families. More women than men get lupus, and the percentage is higher for African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. Over 50 million people have lupus, which tends to be diagnosed between the ages of 15-44 years of age.
The most common symptoms include:
- Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
- Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose or rashes elsewhere on the body
- Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
- Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud's phenomenon)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Headaches, confusion and memory loss
Many patients also have Sjogren's Disease, which causes dry eyes, mouth, and nose. The symptoms are treated, but it is difficult to diagnose or treat.
There is no cure for this systemic lupus and the only medication treatments. Plaquenil, prednisone, NSAIDs, Methotrexate, and finally we have Benestyl, which is just for systemic lupus. This is the first new drug-specific to lupus in fifty years.
Bisphosphonates therapy is another way rheumatologists are treating lupus patients. They are using medications that protect the bones, as drugs like prednisone end with osteoporosis.
This is What Happens When You Have an Autoimmune Disease
This is in a group of rare, progressive diseases that involve hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body. Localized scleroderma affects only the skin. Systemic scleroderma also harms internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and digestive tract. Scientists estimate that about 250 people per million have some form of scleroderma.
The most prevalent signs of this disease include Raynaud’s phenomenon, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), which in addition to acid reflux you may have trouble absorbing nutrients. Your skin changes and may include swollen fingers and hands, thickened patches of skin, particularly on the fingers; and tight skin around the hands, face or mouth. The skin will appear shiny because it is so tight.
I have a friend with this disease, and she must wear a restrictive binding on her left arm from the top to her wrist, which means she always wears long sleeves. That is not much fun living in Florida.
This disease affects not only your skin but also your blood vessels and internal organs; there are sub-categories defined by what area of the body is being attacked.
One is called CREST and results from an overproduction and accumulation of collagen in body tissues. Native Americans get this disease 20 times more often than the general population, and it is more common with Afro-Americans as well.
It occurs 4 times more often in women than men. While there is no known cause, exposure to silica dust, common in coal mines and rock quarries, some industrial solvents such as paint thinners and certain chemotherapy drugs may exacerbate the disease.
There is no cure and treatment is typically the same as that for lupus patients, corticosteroids, Plaquenil, and anti-inflammatory medications.
This is another uncommon connective tissue disease, which is characterized by muscle inflammation and progressive weakness. This is particularly true in skeletal muscles, which control movement, involving those closest to the trunk of the body first. It most commonly occurs in 30 to 50-year-old people.
Signs usually develop gradually over weeks or months. The weakness is symmetrical; affecting both the left and right sides of your body, and tends to gradually worsen. Polymyositis is in a group of diseases or disorders of the muscles called inflammatory
Periods of remission are possible. Treatment to strengthen muscles should start early as there is no cure. Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, speaking, mild joint or muscle tenderness, fatigue and shortness of breath.
Treatment is corticosteroids, (which often start at very high doses then taper down), Cytoxan, cyclosporine and sometimes intravenous therapy of Immunoglobulin containing healthy antibodies from blood donors.
There are several investigation drugs also being tried at the present time. These patients will need physical and speech therapy, plus a dietetic assessment.
Raynaud's disease is a condition that causes some areas of your body such as: your fingers, toes, the tip of your nose and your ears, to feel numb and cool in response to cold temperatures or stress.
In Raynaud's disease, smaller arteries that supply blood to your skin narrow, limiting blood circulation to affected areas. It is more common in cold climates, and it also affects women more than men. This disease frequently is present along with other autoimmune diseases.
During an attack of Raynaud's, affected areas of your skin usually turn white at first. Then, the affected areas often turn blue, feel cold and numb, and your sensory perception is dulled. As circulation improves, the affected areas may turn red, throb, tingle or swell. There are two types of Raynaud’s disease; primary and secondary. The secondary is considered the more serious disease and usually appear after 40 years of age.
The causes of this disease are numerous; other autoimmune diseases, carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive trauma, smoking, chemical exposure and certain medications including some blood pressure treatments
Juvenile Rheumatoid ArthritisIts
It is the most common type of arthritis of those under 16 years of age, affecting 50,000 in the US. It’s a chronic condition causing joint swelling, inflammation, pain, swelling, redness, and stiffness. It may also affect the eyes and internal organs. About 1/5th of patients have an enlarged spleen.
There are 3 categories:
- Pauciarticular- about 50% of the cases are this type and most common in girls under 8 years old
- Polyarticular – about 30% of the cases and it affects 5 or more joints, especially in the hands and feet.
- Systemic – about 20% have this type and if affect both joints and internal organs. These children may have frequent fevers and rashes that come and go rapidly.
Doctors can diagnose this disorder once a patient has had the symptoms for at least 6 weeks. These symptoms may include morning stiffness, limping, reluctance to move an affected joint, joint pain and swelling.
Patients with systemic JRA may have intermittent fever, rash, swollen lymph nodes, and in some cases liver, spleen, (very rarely) lung involvement and eye inflammation.
The cause of this autoimmune disease is also unknown. Its tendency may be inherited but it is believed that a triggering event is required for it to emerge. Several types of blood tests and x-rays are done to aid diagnosis.
There is no cure so treatment is to relieve the discomfort of the symptoms. It is a heart-breaking disease to see children suffer.
The term "autoimmune pancreatitis" was first used in Japan in 1995 to describe a newly recognized form of chronic pancreatitis. Since then, Mayo Clinic has played a major role in identifying, describing and treating the disorder in the United States.
Mayo Clinic researchers have identified 2 types of this disease, including one that can develop as young as 12 years of age.
It is diagnosed from several tests, with the most accurate being a core biopsy. Symptoms of autoimmune pancreatitis often improve dramatically after a short course of corticosteroids. But, relapses are common, and some patients require additional or long-term therapy.
This is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. It causes Inflammation and the destruction of myelin. Myelin surrounds nerve fibers and acts like insulation on a wire preventing “short-circuits” that diverts a nerve signal from having its desired effects.
The “demyelination” process interferes with nerve impulse transmission, affects muscular control, and causes a variety of sensory, motor, and psychological symptoms.
Again, the cause is unknown, but it is thought to be an autoimmune process triggered by a virus. Environment factors cause this disease, and it has a genetic predisposition also.
The first symptoms usually occur between ages 20-40. It affects women more frequently than men, it is more common in Northern European Caucasians. It is important to manage the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, as well as, treating the disease before permanent damage causes symptoms.
Interferon, corticosteroids and several other medications are used. There is no cure, just medications to treat symptoms.
Autoimmune Disease: How to Stop Your Body From Attacking Its
Graves’ disease is the most common cause of overactive thyroid gland. It is caused by an auto-antibody that acts like thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulin which causes the thyroid to produce excessive hormones.
It is usually seen in women over 20 and may cause symptoms and signs such as weight loss, increased appetite, hand tremors, heat sensitivity, sweating, nervousness, and in some patients, protruding eyes.
Patients often have a higher heart rate and an enlarged thyroid (goiter). Radioactive iodine uptake in measured amounts is swallowed and considered a critical component for treatment.
I had a friend with this disease, and they finally "killed" her thyroid as she didn't respond to treatment. The symptoms made her miserable in the meantime. She was treated with the chemicals the thyroid normally produces.
This is another uncommon autoimmune disease that affects about 1 in 20,000 people. Again, there is no known cause or cure.
Symptoms are due to inflammation that can affect many tissues in the body, including blood vessels (vasculitis), which makes it a very serious disease. It affects the upper (sinuses and nose), and lower (lungs), respiratory system and frequently involves the kidneys, lungs, eyes, ears, throat, skin and other body organs.
Other symptoms include nasal membrane ulcerations and crusting, saddle-nose deformity, inflammation of the ear with hearing problems, inflammation of the eye with sight problems, cough (with or without the presence of blood), pleuritis, (inflammation of the lining of the lung), rash and/or skin sores, fever, lack of energy, weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, arthritic joint pain, night sweats, and blood in urine which may or may not be indicated by a change in urine color.
Diagnosis is eventually established by clinical and laboratory findings, such as the ANCA blood test, other blood, and urine tests, x-rays, and tissue biopsy.
Treatment varies based on patient symptoms and disease activity. Corticosteroids and Cytoxan are the initial treatments, then Methotrexate or Azathioprine.
There Are So Many More Diseases
My intent was to give you an overview of some of the better known autoimmune diseases. If you have one of the diseases I'm sure you know a good deal more about it than what I wrote, but if you have symptoms listed in one of the descriptions, I hope this article will help you. Of course, you will want to be seen by a doctor, and remember, your symptoms are real, not in your head as many of us were told before we got a diagnosis.
Living with a chronic illness isn't easy, but it is certainly better when you get it diagnosed, which lets you find out what you can do to improve your health.
There is so much literature available on the internet, in books that may be of help. I wish you all to be in the best of health!
Do you have or does a family member have an autoimmune disease?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.