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What Are Common Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease?
It’s normal for women to feel worn out and achy due to the stress of juggling personal and family responsibilities with those of social life and professional life. But may they be the result of chronic stress or the manifestation of a more serious disease, such as autoimmunity?
Dr. Ana-Maria Orbai has a dual medical and health science degree, and she practices rheumatology at the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Rheumatologists are medical doctors who focus on musculoskeletal and autoimmune disorders (rheumatic disease). Orban discusses the signs and symptoms of autoimmune diseases and when you should seek medical attention.
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Autoimmune Disease Basics
When the immune system fails to properly distinguish between foreign cells and healthy ones, the result is an autoimmune illness. Autoimmune illnesses are extremely diverse, affecting many different systems throughout the body.
Common autoimmune diseases in women include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of arthritis that attacks the joints
- Psoriasis is a condition marked by thick, scaly patches of skin
- Psoriatic arthritis, a type of arthritis affecting some people with psoriasis
- Lupus, a disease that damages areas of the body that including joints, skin, and organs
- Thyroid diseases, including Graves’ disease, where the body makes too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, where it doesn’t make enough (hypothyroidism) of the hormone
- Type 1 diabetes, is a condition in which the immune system damages the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas
Autoimmune disease can cause a wide range of symptoms, from completely absent to debilitating, depending on the individual affected. Orban explains that there is a spectrum of autoimmune disorders. It’s possible that a combination of genetics, environment, and a person’s own health is at play in causing their symptoms.
Upon a colonoscopy and some exams, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC).
UC is an autoimmune disease that affects your large intestine (colon). It is chronic inflammation that results in bloody ulcers & sores forming in your colon. It is closely related to IBS & Crohn’s pic.twitter.com/yz5Tffc8vV
— Sollozzo 🥩⚡️ (@MrSollozzo) August 12, 2022
Common Autoimmune Disease Symptoms
Many of the symptoms of autoimmune diseases are similar, even though there are many different forms of these diseases. Many people with autoimmune disorders experience the following symptoms:
- Joint pain and swelling
- Skin problems
- Abdominal pain or digestive issues
- Recurring fever
- Swollen glands
Orban agrees with the many women who believe it is difficult to acquire a diagnosis. She argues that there is no clear-cut solution. Diagnostic procedures for autoimmune disorders are often multi-step processes. Particular signs and symptoms, including the presence of certain blood markers and, in certain situations, a tissue biopsy, are required. There isn’t a singular cause.”
It might be challenging to make a diagnosis because similar symptoms are shared by many other diseases and disorders. Orban recommends that women get medical help as soon as they experience any new symptoms.
Don’t ignore her warning if you’ve been feeling well but now have unexplained weariness or stiffness in your joints. Telling your doctor about your symptoms allows them to take a deeper look for signs of autoimmune illness or rule them out.
Autoimmune Disease Risk Factors
A hyperactive immune system attacking the body after an infection or injury is a common theory advanced by researchers to explain autoimmune diseases. What we do know is that there are specific risk factors that enhance the likelihood of having autoimmune illnesses, such as:
Genetics: Lupus and multiple sclerosis (MS) are two conditions that frequently occur in families. Having a family member with an autoimmune disorder “increases your risk,” but “does not mean you will have an illness in any case,” as Orban puts it.
Weight: One’s likelihood of acquiring psoriatic or rheumatoid arthritis increases with weight. This may be due to the fact that fatty tissue releases compounds that promote inflammation or to the fact that more weight places additional stress on the joints.
Smoking: Smoking has been related to several autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and multiple sclerosis.
Certain medications: “Drug-induced lupus,” as described by Orbai, “may be triggered by certain blood pressure drugs or antibiotics.” Statin-induced myopathy was found to be triggered by some cholesterol-lowering drugs, as identified by our myositis center. Infrequently occurring myopathy is a form of muscle weakness brought on by an autoimmune disorder. However, you should consult your doctor first before making any changes to your current pharmaceutical regimen.
Autoimmune Disease and Your Health
Heart disease risk is increased in people with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriatic arthritis. Taking preventative measures against heart disease is important for everyone, but it’s more crucial if you already have a heart issue. Consult a medical professional about the best ways to maintain your heart’s health and strength. Having a healthy lifestyle includes things like maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eating right, and getting regular exercise.
Autoimmune illness symptoms may also be alleviated by following these measures. Drugs that suppress the immune system globally are employed in extreme circumstances to prevent the immunological response from causing more damage to the body. However, immunosuppressants increase the risk of infection.
Orban acknowledges that, in today’s modern world, it can be challenging for women to prioritize healthy living amidst their busy schedules. Nonetheless, she stresses the importance of striking a balance in order to manage autoimmune diseases effectively.
“It’s going to take commitment, and there are going to be times when it’s difficult,” she warns. However, understanding your disease’s triggers and learning to listen to your body is crucial. It’s self-care, after all.
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