Symptoms & Causes of Autoimmune Disease

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Autoimmune diseases are a group of complex and often chronic conditions that occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues in the body. These diseases can affect virtually any part of the body, leading to a wide range of symptoms and complications. Understanding the symptoms and causes of autoimmune diseases is crucial for early diagnosis, effective management, and improved quality of life for those affected. In this blog, we will explore the common symptoms experienced by individuals with autoimmune diseases and delve into the underlying factors that contribute to the development of these conditions.

What are Autoimmune Diseases?

Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders in which the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues in the body. Normally, the immune system functions to protect the body from foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses. However, in autoimmune diseases, the immune system becomes confused and starts targeting the body's own cells, leading to inflammation, tissue damage, and various symptoms.

There are over 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, each affecting different organs or systems in the body.

Types of Autoimmune Disease

There are over 80 different types of autoimmune diseases, each with its own unique characteristics and target organs or tissues. Here are some of the most common autoimmune diseases:

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): 

A chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the joints, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and potential joint deformities.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE): 

A systemic autoimmune disease that can affect various organs, including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain. It often presents with symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and organ dysfunction.

Multiple sclerosis (MS): 

A neurological autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of nerve fibres in the central nervous system, leading to communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. Symptoms can range from fatigue and muscle weakness to coordination difficulties and cognitive impairment.

Type 1 diabetes

An autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. As a result, the body cannot properly regulate blood sugar levels, leading to high blood sugar and various complications.

Celiac disease: 

An autoimmune disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It causes damage to the small intestine and interferes with nutrient absorption, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms, malnutrition, and other systemic effects.

Symptoms To Identify The Autoimmune Diseases

  • Fatigue and general feeling of being unwell
  • Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
  • Muscle weakness or pain
  • Skin rashes or lesions
  • Fever or low-grade fever
  • Digestive issues such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, or bloating
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Sensitivity to cold or heat
  • Changes in weight
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory problems

Treatment for Autoimmune Diseases


Immunosuppressant drugs, such as corticosteroids, methotrexate, or biologic therapies, are often prescribed to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system's overactivity.

Pain Management: 

Analgesics or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used to manage pain and reduce inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases.

Lifestyle Modifications: 

Making certain lifestyle changes, such as adopting a balanced diet, regular exercise, tension management, and adequate sleep, can help manage symptoms and improve overall well-being.

Physical Therapy: 

Physical therapy and rehabilitation techniques may be recommended to improve mobility, strength, and joint function in autoimmune diseases affecting the musculoskeletal system.

Supportive Therapies: 

Some individuals may benefit from complementary or alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, yoga, or massage, to alleviate symptoms and improve their quality of life

How is Autoimmune Disease Diagnosed?

  • Medical history and physical examination
  • Blood tests to measure autoantibodies and inflammatory markers
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays, ultrasounds, or MRI
  • Biopsy of affected tissue for microscopic examination
  • Consultation with specialists, such as rheumatologists or endocrinologists
  • Monitoring response to specific treatments
  • Collaboration between the patient and healthcare team for an accurate diagnosis

Take Away

Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own cells and tissues. They can affect multiple organs and cause diverse symptoms. Diagnosis involves medical history, physical examination, blood tests, imaging, and sometimes biopsies. Treatment aims to alleviate symptoms and control inflammation through medications and lifestyle modifications. Close collaboration with healthcare professionals is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective management.


Q: What foods trigger autoimmune disease?

A: Trigger foods can vary, but common culprits include gluten, dairy, sugar, processed foods, and nightshade vegetables. Seek personalised dietary recommendations from a healthcare professional.

Q: Can stress and anxiety cause autoimmune disease?

A: Tension does not directly cause autoimmune diseases but may exacerbate symptoms. Managing tension and practising self-care are important for overall well-being.

Q: Do autoimmune diseases go away?

A: Autoimmune diseases are typically chronic and do not go away completely. Symptoms can be managed, and periods of remission can be achieved with treatment and lifestyle modifications. Regular medical care is crucial.


Everything to Know About Autoimmune Diseases,  By Stephanie Watson, on May 24, 2023

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