How To Identify The Presence of Autoimmune Diseases In The Body
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body.The immune system normally guards against germs like bacteria and viruses. When it senses these foreign invaders, it sends out an army of fighter cells to attack them.Normally, the immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your own cells.In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells.Some autoimmune diseases target only one organ. Type 1 diabetes damages the pancreas. Other diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), affect the whole body.
Autoimmune diseases are caused in the body when our immunity system treats certain parts of our own body as foreign and attacks them. The disease has over 80 manifestations and is one of the top reasons for worldwide deaths. The symptoms for all autoimmune diseases are mostly the same. The difficulty is that the symptoms could very well be associated with another illness which is not autoimmune.
However, one must always be alert. Here are some signs to help you identify and be aware of your body better, so that you can fight against autoimmune diseases:
Reduced attention span, headaches, and foggy memory
All of the above three can be attributed to sleeplessness, anxiety, stress, and so on, as well, but these can be caused by autoimmune diseases like anemia or lupus too.
Persistent skin problems
Butterfly rashes, acne, eczema, dermatitis, etc., are all skin problems which make it impossible for the skin to breathe, feel clean, or look great. While the causes of these problems could also lie elsewhere, persistent issues should be looked into by a doctor in order to be checked for hemolytic anemia, scleroderma, psoriasis, and other disorders.
Although asthma, whether allergic or chronic, has not been yet surely been classified as an autoimmune disease, breathing issues can still point towards a dysfunction in the immunity system, according to ongoing research.
Continued lethargy or hyperactivity
Fatigue and exhaustion are common to all autoimmune diseases. It is one of the first symptoms of the same. If any/all activities leave you drained and devoid of energy, and you keep feeling tired despite being well rested, you should consult your doctor and seek professional medical help to identify any autoimmune diseases being present.
If you experience regular muscle pains or stiffness, it can make regular life difficult. However, these symptoms shouldn’t be taken lightly as they can also be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune hepatitis, psoriasis, Hashimoto’s disease, and so on.
Bowel movement problems
Issues relating to the digestive system can be very taxing on the body. Unhealthy food habits are a big cause for the same, but problems like stomach cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation can also be caused by autoimmune diseases like ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and thyroid disorders.
Sudden weight fluctuations
The autoimmune diseases often first attack the thyroid gland which releases thyroxin, a hormone that regulates body weight. A disproportionate amount of it being released due to the malfunctioning of the thyroid gland could be the cause for fluctuations in weight.
Sensations, or the lack of thereof, in hands and feet
Although numbness or pins and needles feeling are caused due to the interrupted flow of blood to the hands and feet, they could sometimes be indicative of something more serious than we anticipate. Visit your doctor, if these seemingly harmless symptoms persist.
Loss of hair
Hair fall can be the result of several lifestyle or genetic issues, but if the immunity system attacks the follicles of hair, we experience severe hair loss. It could be the head or any part of our body.
We often tend to ignore minor fevers, but they could be indicative of our body’s immunity system turning on its own self. Make sure you see your doctor if the fevers are unexplained.
There are more than 80 different autoimmune diseases. Here are some of the most common ones:
Type 1 diabetes
The pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. In type 1 diabetes mellitus, the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
High blood sugar results can lead to damage in the blood vessels, as well as organs like the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the immune system attacks the joints. This attack causes redness, warmth, soreness, and stiffness in the joints.
Unlike osteoarthritis, which commonly affects people as they get older, RA can start as early as your 30s or sooner.
Skin cells normally grow and then shed when they’re no longer needed. Psoriasis causes skin cells to multiply too quickly. The extra cells build up and form inflamed red patches, commonly with silver-white scales of plaque on the skin.
Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis also develop swelling, stiffness, and pain in their joints. This form of the disease is called psoriatic arthritis.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) damages the myelin sheath, the protective coating that surrounds nerve cells, in your central nervous system. Damage to the myelin sheath slows the transmission speed of messages between your brain and spinal cord to and from the rest of your body.
The early symptoms of many autoimmune diseases are very similar, such as:
- achy muscles
- swelling and redness
- low-grade fever
- trouble concentrating
- numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- hair loss
- skin rashes
Individual diseases can also have their own unique symptoms. For example, type 1 diabetes causes extreme thirst, weight loss, and fatigue. IBD causes belly pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
With autoimmune diseases like psoriasis or 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.
When to see a doctor
See a doctor if you have symptoms of an autoimmune disease. You might need to visit a specialist, depending on the type of disease you have.
- Rheumatologists treat joint diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis as well as other autoimmune diseases like Sjögren’s syndrome and SLE.
- Gastroenterologists treat diseases of the GI tract, such as celiac and Crohn’s disease.
- Endocrinologists treat conditions of the glands, including Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and Addison’s disease.
- Dermatologists treat skin conditions, such as psoriasis.
A lot of these symptoms are difficult to link to autoimmune diseases. There is absolutely no reason to worry about even if you already are experiencing any of the said symptoms. Just visit a doctor as soon as you notice an anomaly and get yourself checked!