Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

The condition, in which the immune system of the body mistakes its own cells to be foreign and attacks the individual's body, is called an autoimmune disease. The function of the immune system is to provide a guard against the attack of germs as bacteria and virus. The immune system sends out a lot of fighter cells to attack the bacteria and protects the body from any kind of approaching disease. It is an attribute of the immune system to identify the difference between the foreign cells and the cells of the body.

But in the situation of autoimmune disease, body parts like joints or skin is misunderstood as foreign by the immune system and it starts releasing proteins named autoantibodies which have the function of attacking the healthy cells. There are also different body parts assigned as target for different autoimmune diseases. The pancreas is affected by the Type 1 diabetes. Lupus is yet another autoimmune disease which can attack and damage the whole body. All these are hazardous.

20 Signs You May Have an Autoimmune Disease

What are the most prominent signs of autoimmune diseases? There are various different symptoms of the separate autoimmune diseases, but certain signs are very common in almost any type of the autoimmune disease and they can be discussed as follows:

  1. Extreme Fatigue

    The people who have been attacked by an autoimmune disease often get tired in small chores. They might take adequate rest and sleep, but nothing seems to be enough. They are always drowsy and battling extreme fatigue. It is one of the most prominent signs of autoimmune diseases. In most of the cases, this fatigue is considered as a sign of weakness and people simply rely on the home treatments, but this is not at all advisable as bigger symptoms of autoimmune diseases may follow and cause the condition to be severe. This acute fatigue syndrome is also called myalgic encephalomyelitis and in this situation, the patient can face a lot of trouble in concentrating their mind at one place. The feeling of weakness slowly increases to give rise to muscle pain and body pain along with headache. There is also another fatigue condition called fibromyalgia which can be the beginning symptom of an autoimmune disease.

  2. Brain Fog

    Brain fog happens when the blood circulation to the brain is made unsteady by the interruption of the immunity system. Brain fog is a tough situation. People might feel like losing interest in whatever they do, sometimes even lack of concentration and irritation also accompany brain fog and make concentration, a far-fetched dream. It is also known as brain fatigue and can be one of the preliminary symptoms of autoimmune diseases. This condition can start with a slight incident of confusion in the memories of the sufferer and can continue to be a serious case of forgetfulness. In this also, the patient goes through a lack of focus and a reduced mental stability. This further can give rise to serious problems like memory loss. The anemic patients are more threatened by this symptom as they already have a less amount of iron supply and are more prone to getting affected by brain fog.

  3. Anxiety and Depression

    As anxiety and depression should not be misunderstood to be the same state, they are followed by somewhat similar mental situations. Irritation, tiredness, weariness from life, getting stuck into dark places of the past increase the anxiety and depression and this is highly controlled by the autoimmune diseases. Intensive research has proved that the patients suffering from autoimmune diseases show more signs of anxiety and depression, and thus this can be used as a symptom of autoimmune diseases. This is like a cycle in which symptom becomes the disease and vice versa, confusing the medical practitioners a lot. Hence, consulting a doctor is very much recommended instead of going for therapies to control the anxiety and get over the depression. This anxiety is caused as the inflammatory cytokines to have a direct effect on the central nervous system of the human beings, thus resulting into high nervous activities.

  4. Sleep Disturbances or Insomnia

    As the hormones are interrupted from proper functioning in the autoimmune diseases, they also have a very negative influence on the sleeping habits of the patient. The sufferer might not be able to fall asleep for a long time which in return, is again going to increase the feeling of tiredness in the patient. This condition of insomnia can arise because of various reasons and also as an effect of the other symptoms of autoimmune diseases. Firstly, the depression and anxiety can prevent the sound sleep of any individual. Secondly, in some autoimmune diseases, the joint pain becomes so acute that no position can give them proper rest. This increase in pain can lead to insomniac conditions in the patient. And lastly, as the autoimmune diseases are caused by misfiring of hormones and senses, there might also be destruction of the brain cells in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is responsible for producing a neurotransmitter, which affects the sleep cycle of humans. As the creating cells are destroyed, the sleeping habits are also highly affected.

  5. Weight Loss or Weight Gain

    In autoimmune diseases, mostly in the thyroid conditions, sudden differences in the weight of the individuals have been observed. While some people gain weight, some just fall back on the meter with a decreased confidence, lack of strength and willingness to work. Such is the effect of these harmful diseases. They simply alter the conditions of the hormones a lot and lead to a decrement in the body fluid, reduce the mass of the muscles or even degrade the bone density. Under such circumstances, the body weight immediately falls down. The alternate process is observed in the cases of excessive weight gain. Both of them are extremely dangerous as they are not only the symptoms of autoimmune diseases, but also lead to various other diseases that might be related to the weight and body mass.

  6. Weakness

    As these autoimmune diseases cause great weakness to the body, they also bring down the strength of the body. Followed by sore muscles and joint pain, these diseases make the patient very weak and they might face an inability in even walking, let alone be traveling. In the autoimmune diseases, the immune system of the body starts attacking its own tissues and damages them a lot, resulting in the weakness of the muscles and irregular functioning of the nerve cells. They give rise to several neuromuscular diseases that can cause weakness in the skeletal muscles and hence, making it tough for the patients to walk or use their hands and legs, a lot. This can be a very prominent symbol for an autoimmune disease named Myasthenia Gravis.

  7. Joint and/or Muscle Pain

    As stated in the case of different other autoimmune diseases, joint and muscle pain is one of the most significant signs of autoimmune diseases. The muscles start swelling and reddening and make it difficult for the sufferer to carry on with their day to day life. This muscle pain can also be caused due to the damaged nerve cells which slowly get weaker with time and constant effect of the autoimmune disease. There might also be several autoimmune reactions which contribute towards the severe situation of the joints and the muscles. As the joint linings slowly start getting thickened, they start swelling and the tremendous pain following it causes difficulties of even walking, in the patient. As a symptom, joint pain indicated towards rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatic, systemic scleroderma, lupus and others. The most commonly affected joints are that of the wrists which give the basic hint of an autoimmune disease.

  8. Skin Issues

    Eczema, itchy and dry skin, rash can be very well connected with autoimmune diseases. A butterfly-shaped rash on the nose and cheeks can be very important in understanding the type of autoimmune disease a person is suffering from. Dermatitis herpetiformis (a type of celiac disease) is a disorder induced by extreme itchiness on the skin and redness on it. Acne and pimples also come out, indicating the effect of autoimmunity. Dry skin can also be a sign of a different disorder named hypothyroid or also called, Hashimoto’s disease. Hence, different types of skin issues act as the symptom of different autoimmune diseases. Also, some autoimmune diseases like lupus can very easily be confused with a skin disease by even doctors. But as some of the effects of these diseases reach as deep as to the brain, kidney and heart, skin rashes became one of the most important symptoms of autoimmune diseases.

  9. Temperature Intolerance

    It is again the task of the immunity system to maintain the body temperature properly and keep fluctuating it as the body goes from hot to cold weather and vice versa. But if the body starts sticking to only one temperature and there is an issue in regulating the body temperature, then it might again be a sign of an autoimmune disease. If the body starts staying warm in all conditions or cold in warm areas also, then there is a situation of temperature intolerance and it happens in the autoimmune diseases. The most common reason of this intolerance is that there are certain parts in the human body’s immune system which are very much temperature and pH sensitive. Even a little deviation in it can cause significant troubles to the immune system and boost the impact of autoimmune diseases. These temperature imbalances are mostly noticed as symptoms in the thyroid related autoimmune diseases and can be treated by taking in drugs of Vitamin D, which can keep the body temperature in a normal range, thus balancing this temperature intolerance.

  10. Numbness or Tingling

    The most significant changes start being evident from the muscles. The numbness and tingling sensation in the muscles and also the tightening of it indicate towards the approaching of an autoimmune disease. There might also arise a tingling in the arms, feel, legs and the hands which is mostly caused due to nerve damage. As the immune system of the body starts attacking itself in the cases of autoimmune diseases, the damage of nerve tissues and cells is very much common and can lead to this tingling and a sensation of numbness in the muscles. The damage of these peripheral nerves also causes a sort of burning pain in the muscles, which can again be related to the joint pain symptom of the autoimmune diseases. Thus, all these symptoms that finally indicate towards an autoimmune disease are very much related and ignorance of even one of these can cause serious troubles in curing the patient.

  11. Hair Loss

    While this is not a very prominent symptom as hair loss is a common trait for any disorder or illness related to the skin and muscles, it is still one of the factors which the medical practitioners check before getting deep into the other symptoms of autoimmune diseases while diagnosis. It has been observed in many cases that before the onset of thyroid diseases or other autoimmune diseases like alopecia areata, the hair follicles are very badly damaged by the mishap in the immune system, which further leads to the weaker roots, dry hair and more hair fall. This is why, hair fall, in spite of being a very common symptom, hair loss holds a great significance in the detection and diagnosis of autoimmune diseases.

  12. Continuous Headaches

    Autoimmune diseases also cause a lot of headaches which can be recurring in nature and have similarities to the pain of migraine. Vertigo can also be a sign in confirming whether a person is really suffering from some autoimmune disease or not. It has been said by the doctors that anything that can induce inflammation in the human body, can also cause Migraine. As Migraine is accompanied by severe headache, the first diagnosis revolves around the headache and other body pain that the patient might be suffering from. Even the blood vessel inflammation, called the vasculitis can be the reason behind acute headache and these are all autoimmune diseases. Hence, headache and various diseases related to headache direct towards the slowly growing stage of autoimmune diseases in human immune system.

  13. Digestion Problems

    All the gastric issues related to the stomach like constipation, bloating of the stomach, diarrhea, excessive gas formation are again the symptoms of various diseases and hence doctors are negligent towards it being the symptom for any autoimmune disease. However, even the smallest of the indications can sometimes assist in the treatment a lot and hence, none of these symptoms should be avoided. Various autoimmune diseases like the Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus can cause severe harm to the digestive system and destroy it to a point that may be life risking. Hence, the digestive problems should not be ignored at all. People also tend to go for home therapy in case of such problems, but rarely are they aware of digestive problems being the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. It is therefore recommended to go for an immediate checkup in case of extreme digestion problems.

  14. Allergies or Intolerances

    The environmental, social and chemical conditions of the things and people all around us demand some cooperation from us all. But a growing intolerance towards helping others, developing more and more allergens is also a sign that the immunity system of your body is misfiring at you and trying to create the germs which it has not got to fight with. There are various seasonal allergies which come and slowly subside, like sneezing, immediate cold and cough which start growing because of the initiation of chronic inflammation from within the body. This inflammation gets the immune system to come in action and the immune system, having a tendency of intolerance towards the growth of germs and bacteria causing these allergies, start attacking on the tissues which are present all around. It creates its own virtual enemies and destroys the tissues which were not at all harmful, thus giving path to the growth of autoimmune diseases.

  15. Hormonal Imbalances

    The beginning and end of the menstruation period, from the adolescence to the maturity is a very sensitive period for every woman. In this phase, all the hormonal imbalances take place and the girls entering their menstruation or the women at their menopause are most likely to get attacked by an autoimmune disease. But just like these conditions spring up suddenly, the autoimmune diseases accompanied with them also come all in a flash. The hormonal imbalance as a symptom of autoimmune diseases can only be detected once the patient has started showing the signs of acute fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, depression and all other basic symptoms of the autoimmune diseases.

  16. Rapid Heartbeat

    Rapid heartbeat or tachycardia is one of the most common symptoms of autoimmune diseases. As there are other nervous system related issues like fatigue, depression and anxiety, rapid heartbeat accompanies them all. In this condition, some patients start feeling that a burden has been placed on their chests while others complain of having rather irregular heartbeat. These symptoms lead to brain fog and cause a flickering in the mind, with less concentration and more incorporation of panic in the nature of the patient. Hence, irregular heartbeat or very rapid rate of beating can be very prime symptom of autoimmune diseases, arising from the other similar symptoms of these diseases.

  17. Blood in the Stool

    As the gastrointestinal functions are highly affected by the autoimmune diseases, some other traits like blood in the stool is also observed during the diagnostics of other symptoms of these diseases. There are a large number of autoimmune diseases that begin with this malfunctioning such as the oral ulcers, abdominal pain and constipation. When excess pressure is applied on the nerves, they result in causing blood flow along with the stool in the patient of autoimmune diseases and can be very prominent in guessing the chances of suffering from some disease.

  18. Blood Clots

    Blood clots are very dangerous as they might cause life taking troubles such as stroke or a heart attack. A swelling in the hands and legs along with severe pain in them can further lead to blood clotting if the immune system of the body attacks the phospholipid by mistake. As this attack can cause blood clotting in the remotest of the body parts, blood clots prove to be one of the main symptoms of autoimmune diseases.

  19. Fever

    Very low fever can also come along with all the other troubling symptoms of the autoimmune diseases. Along with the weakness, numbness, muscle pain and joint thinning, fever can be considered to be the simple ailment, but in the case of autoimmune diseases, mild fever can be a good indication.

  20. Unresolved Symptoms

    The symptoms of autoimmune diseases are not at all anything unique, which no one has ever seen. These are the common signs which can lead to other diseases as well or can also be treated as separate issues. Thus, it is very important for a person to be well-informed and whenever the doctor evaluates the whole scenario, try and explain the chances of getting an autoimmune disease and gets diagnosed for that as well.

    Thus, we can see that there are various diseases having the common signs of autoimmune diseases as well as the symptoms which make these diseases a bit less tough to identify. If any of these symptoms is found in anyone near you, it is highly advisable that the person is treated by a specialist as soon as possible. Also, autoimmune diseases belong to the sectors of recent discoveries and not much discussion is present on this topic. However, doctors have listed the symptoms and told how different diseases take up the symptoms to create various problems like joint pain, muscle weakening, dry mouth, dry eyes, fatigue, hair loss and gastric issues. All of this can only be avoided if one is extra careful of their food habits, traditions and lifestyle.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: May 15, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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