Do You Suspect You Have An Autoimmune Disease? Here’s a Look at the 14 Most Common and Their Symptoms.
Diagnosing an autoimmune disease can be tricky. That’s because so many illnesses and autoimmune disorders have symptoms that are similar in nature. Nevertheless, it’s important to pin down a definitive diagnosis in order to receive effective therapy. If you suspect that you may be suffering from an autoimmune disease but find all the symptom variations daunting, you’re not alone.
Autoimmune disorders are among the most regularly seen category of diseases at the National Stem Cell Institute (NSI), one of the U.S.’s leading regenerative medicine clinics.
With that in mind, the physicians at NSI are uniquely qualified to help the public understand the symptoms and what a diagnosis may mean to someone. Below is a breakdown of the 14 most common autoimmune disease types and their symptoms.
Autoimmune Disease Basics
An autoimmune disease is a medical condition that affects the immune system’s ability to function properly. The body’s immune system is designed to guard against microscopic invaders such as bacteria and viruses. When it’s working as it should, the immune system senses these microscopic outsiders and sends a defense force of fighter cells to surround and kill them.
A healthy immune system knows the difference between foreign invaders and the body’s own cells, organs, and “good” microorganisms that co-exist within it. An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system has mistaken a part of your body as a foreign invader (such an organ or the protective sheaths around nerve endings). When this happens, proteins called autoantibodies attack healthy cells as if they were harmful germs or organisms.
Autoimmune disorders often vary in that the targets of the autoantibodies can differ.
Consider these examples. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that attacks the pancreas. Meanwhile, the autoimmune disease lupus affects whole areas of the body. In the case of multiple sclerosis, the myelin sheath that envelopes nerve endings is the target.
Why the Immune System Attacks the Body
Medical science doesn’t yet have a definitive answer as to why the immune system will suddenly attack the body. However, it is known that certain groups of people are more susceptible to autoimmune disease than others.
According to a 2012 study published on PubMed.gov women develop autoimmune disorders by as much as 2 to 1 compared to men. This boils down to 6.4 % of women and 2.7% percent of men will be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. There also seems to be a correlation between developing an autoimmune disease and a woman in her childbearing years. Frequently, women receive a diagnosis between the ages of 14 to 44.
Some autoimmune disorders are more likely to affect particular ethnic groups or family lines.
Lupus, for example, is more prevalent among African-Americans and people of Hispanic origins than Caucasians. Lupus also tends to run in families, as does multiple sclerosis. This is not to say that every relative of the family member will develop an autoimmune disease. However, the susceptibility is higher for someone with a family history of autoimmune disease than someone with no family history of such disorders.
Cases of Autoimmune Disease are on the Rise
According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Celiac Disease, autoimmune disease as a whole is on the rise. These findings lead medical researchers to suspect that there may also be a link between autoimmune disorders and the patient’s environment. Environmental factors being studied include infectious disease and exposure to chemicals or solvents.
Also related to environmental triggers is the consumption of what is known as a “Western” diet: eating foods that are high in fat, high in sugar, and highly processed. Many foods in this category have been linked to inflammation which some researchers believe can set off an immune response that develops into an autoimmune disease.
There is also growing concern among some medical experts that Western society may be sanitizing itself into this rise in autoimmune disorders.
This is called the “hygiene hypothesis.” This theory speculates that modern children do not encounter exposure to bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic organisms to the same degree that humans have experienced in the past. It is theorized that this lack of exposure may be causing some people’s immune systems to overreact when exposed to usually harmless substances.
14 Common Autoimmune Disorders
While there are over 80 types of autoimmune disease, the 14 most common ones are:
- Type 1 Diabetes
Many people are surprised to learn that type 1 diabetes (formerly known as juvenile diabetes) is classified as an autoimmune disease. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system perceives the insulin-producing cells within the pancreas as threats.
Insulin is the primary hormone that helps in the regulation of glucose (or sugar) levels in the bloodstream. When blood sugar levels are elevated, the results can range from damaged blood vessels to heart, kidney, eyes, and nerve damage.
High blood sugar can damage blood vessels, as well as organs like the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
RA is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints. The commonly affected joints are those in the hands, wrists, and feet. But larger joints such as shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles can also be affected. The results can vary from inflammation and soreness to severe pain and joint deformity.
RA can begin as early as 30 years of age, as opposed to osteoarthritis, which develops in the later years of a person’s life.
- Psoriasis/Psoriatic Arthritis
An autoimmune disease can also cause skin cells to proliferate too quickly. When this happens, the condition is known as psoriasis. The build-up of the excess cells forms red, scaly patches that are commonly referred to as scales or plaques over the skin.
Approximately 30% of those who suffer from psoriasis also develop arthritic symptoms in their joints. When this happens, it’s called psoriatic arthritis.
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
This autoimmune disease causes damage to a part of the nerves cells known as the myelin sheath. A myelin sheath is the protective outer layer surrounding nerve cells. When the sheath is damaged, it compromises the ability of the brain and body to exchange messages.
Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:
- Difficulty in walking
- Speech problems
- Vision problems
- Body pain
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Commonly referred to simply as lupus, this autoimmune disease affects many parts of the body, including:
- Skin rash formation
- The brain
- The heart, and other organs
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD usually presents itself in one of two ways. As Crohn’s disease, it can cause intense inflammation anywhere along the gastro-intestinal tract quite literally from top (the mouth) to bottom (the anus). As ulcerative colitis, the autoimmune disease targets the lining of the colon and rectum.
- Addison’s Disease
Addison’s disease attacks the adrenal glands. This autoimmune disease affects the production of cortisol and aldosterone. If the production of these hormones is inhibited, the body’s ability to use and store carbohydrates and sugar is compromised.
Symptoms often mimic that of diabetes, causing weakness, fatigue, weight loss, and low blood glucose levels.
- Graves’ Disease
This is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid gland. The thyroid –located in the neck- produces vital hormones. Graves’ disease causes over-production of hormones that help regulate the body’s metabolism. Symptoms include:
- Fast heartbeat
- An intolerance for heat
- Weight loss
- Bulging eyes
- Sjögren’s Syndrome
This autoimmune disease affects the body’s joints and the glands that produce for the eyes and the mouth. Painful joints, dry eyes, and dry mouth are common symptoms.
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Whereas Graves’ disease causes hyperactivity of the thyroid, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that slows the production of thyroidal hormones. Symptoms include:
- Gaining weight
- Cold sensitivity
- Loss of hair
- Swollen thyroid
- Myasthenia Gravis
This is an autoimmune disease that attacks the nerves that control the body’s muscles. The body is unable to effectively signal muscle movement. Very often, the ability to swallow and control facial movements is affected. Muscle weakness is a common symptom. The weakness worsens with activity and improves with rest.
This is an autoimmune disease of the blood vessels. Inflammation causes arteries and veins to narrow, obstructing blood flow.
- Pernicious Anemia
This disease very specifically targets an essential protein called intrinsic factor. The protein aids absorption of vitamin B12 in the intestines as food passes through. Insufficient vitamin B12 can result in too few red blood cells being produced. Pernicious anemia is seen more often in older people, affecting approximately 2% of those over 60 years of age as opposed to 0.1% of the general public.
- Celiac Disease
When someone has a profound reaction to foods that contain gluten, it’s an indication of celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in many grains, such as wheat and rye. In the case of this autoimmune disease, the immune system overreacts to gluten in the intestine and causes inflammation.
Symptoms that Many Autoimmune Disorders Have in Common
There are several symptoms that are common to many autoimmune disorders. This commonality can cause complications in diagnosing which specific autoimmune condition is present. Symptoms in common include:
- Aching muscles
- Swollen joints or tissues
- Reddened joints or tissues
- Low fever
- Concentration difficulties
- Tingling and/or numbness in the hands and/or feet
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes
Of course, each autoimmune disease type has symptoms that are unique to the individual condition. And some autoimmune disorders symptoms may come and go, as in the cases of psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple sclerosis. These cycles of symptom surges and ebbs are known as flare-ups and remissions.
When to See a Physician
It’s easy to convince yourself that symptoms of an autoimmune disease are “all in your mind,” especially if they are the kind that flares up and fades. This can lead to unnecessary suffering or a worsening of your condition. Autoimmune conditions are real. Visit your primary care provider if you suspect you have one.
A specialist may need to be consulted, depending on the diagnosis. For example:
- A rheumatologist treats autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome
- A gastroenterologist treats gastro-intestinal conditions such as celiac or Crohn’s disease
- An endocrinologist treats glandular disorders like those related to Graves’ or Addison’s disease
- A dermatologist specializes in skin conditions like psoriasis
Diagnostic Tests for Autoimmune Disease
Generally speaking, autoimmune disorders cannot be diagnosed with a single type of test. Physicians usually carry out a combination of tests in conjunction with a professional evaluation of symptoms in order to determine a diagnosis.
Oftentimes, the first test used is the antinuclear antibody test (ANA). While this test helps to determine the likelihood that you have an autoimmune disease, it will not reveal which specific one you have. Other tests will come into play in order to more accurately diagnose the particular disease you are exhibiting.
How Autoimmune Disorders are Treated
By and large, autoimmune disorders are not considered treatable. However, most can be effectively managed. The aim is to control out-sized immune responses and relieve inflammation in order to reduce the frequency of flare-ups and severity of symptoms when they happen. Traditional treatments include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen
- Treatments that relieve pain, swelling, fatigue, and skin rashes
- Lifestyle changes that promote diets that prevent flare-ups, as well as regular exercise to reduce symptoms
In more chronic conditions, immune-suppressing drugs have been traditionally employed. Today, however, regenerative medicine techniques such as stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma therapy are being used as the first resort in combating autoimmune disease symptoms.
These therapies use the patient’s own stem cells and/or platelet rich plasma to repair damage to organs, nerves, skin, and tissue affected by autoimmune disorders.
The National Stem Cell Institute (NSI) is a leading regenerative medicine cell clinic based in the United States. NSI specializes in stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma therapy. From diseases like autoimmune disorders and COPD to injuries of the spine and joints, NSI has helped patients recover from disease, heal from injury, and improve quality of life.
NSI is a fully licensed regenerative medicine facility that strictly adheres to FDA guidelines. NSI encourages the public to call with any questions regarding stem cell therapy and how it may pertain to any health concerns. Below, NSI offers tips on selecting the right stem cell clinic for you.
What to Look for in a Stem Cell Medical Clinic
When searching for a qualified stem cell therapy center it’s important to remember that not all of them are created equal. Stem cells, when used properly, are your body’s most powerful means for healing that can repair everything from ligaments, tendons, and cartilage to organs including your liver, pancreas and lungs and even neurological tissue like your brain, nerves, and spinal cord.
Unfortunately, the majority of so-called “regenerative medicine clinics” in the world aren’t trained in the latest, most technologically advanced procedures and will, therefore, provide poor results if any.
The good news is the National Stem Cell Institute (NSI) has established the most advanced stem cell and platelet rich plasma procedures on the planet which has drawn patients from all over the world as well as professional athletes and celebrities because they are recognized as the best in the world at stem cell therapy.
What makes NSI Stem Cell the top stem cell clinic in the world is demonstrated in 5 key areas:
1. Highly trained and experienced, board-certified doctors and team members who have performed stem cell procedures on thousands of patients with incredible results.
2. Cutting edge procedures utilizing all that regenerative medicine has to offer for many chronic degenerative conditions.
3. Leading scientific researchers who follow the advanced guidelines to maximize the healing potential of your stem cells and to maintain compliance and ethics
4. Use of only the most potent and viable resource of living, viable stem cells and harvested on the same day. No vial that you can purchase will contain living stem cells. If there is no harvest then there are no stem cells.
5. Post-operative guidance for supporting stem-cell growth including rehabilitation, diet and supplement protocols. NSI is a full-service healthcare center focused on patient outcomes. Stem cell therapy is only one tool used to help improve patients’ lives.
Patients have raved about their experience at NSI Stem Cell Clinics testifying that it was their unique cutting-edge procedures that helped them experience a breakthrough when nothing else worked.
If you want to learn more about NSI Stem Cell Clinics, you can set up a complimentary consultation today to see if you are a candidate. You can contact the National Stem Cell Institute at (877) 278-3623.
* Disclaimer: Individual patient results may vary. As each patient’s problem is different, each treatment must be tailored around your specific needs.