Autoimmune diseases affect more people than you might think. It is estimated that about 20 percent of Americans are affected by some form of autoimmune disorder. In a healthy human body, the immune system uses antibodies to attack foreign invaders on the body, such as viruses, sickness, and other infectious agents. When someone has an autoimmune disease, the immune system produces unusual antibodies that turn on their own tissue. It is more common for an autoimmune disease to zero-in on one organ, although some others are non-organ-specific.
Even though the estimates for those with an autoimmune disease are high, many people still go undiagnosed. For many, the symptoms seem normal: “I am just a naturally tired person” or “My body just gains weight more than others.” Other symptoms are more severe depending on the person, but if you are curious to see if your symptoms are indicative of an autoimmune disorder, check with your local doctor.
Fatigue is a common symptom for one reason: your body is tired of fighting itself. If you’ve ever been sick, you might know what this is like. Type 1 diabetes, for example, can result in fatigue because your body isn’t absorbing the calories it needs. Most people with Lupus experience extreme fatigue because inflammation is causing stress on the body. Try comparing yourself to other people. Use an OURA sleep tracker to track your nightly rest. Do your peers report being well rested if they get their solid six to eight hours of sleep, while you can sleep in for ten or twelve hours and still feel exhausted? This may give you insight into whether your fatigue is due to the normal daily grind, or whether something more serious is at play.
Excessive Weight Loss or Weight Gain
While it may be exciting to suddenly find yourself losing weight for no apparent reason, extreme weight loss can be a sign of a more serious issue. Diseases such as type 1 diabetes or Grave’s Disease are just two examples of autoimmune disorders that can cause this. Grave’s Disease is when the body causes the thyroid to overproduce thyroid hormone, a hormone that helps control your metabolism. Under this condition, your appetite will increase even though your weight decreases. While this might sound appealing, you should pay attention to other symptoms such as excess anxiety, loose bowel movements, arrhythmia, and shaky hands. Conversely, if you have trouble losing weight, you may have a disease called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. In any case, get a blood test and visit an endocrinologist to be sure and get the proper treatment.
Depending on the disease, skin disorders may be more or less severe. Psoriatic arthritis is a disease associated with psoriasis, which is a chronic skin disease that occurs when skin cells reproduce faster than normal. Other diseases, such as those that cause inflammation, are known to causes swelling and redness. For most diseases, inflammation can increase when excess gluten or sugar is consumed. This can cause breakouts beyond the norm for kids and adults. Some diseases cause excessively dry or oily skin, which may call for specialized acne treatments beyond the autoimmune medication. If you take medication for your disease and acne problems persist, find a dermatologist and get professional assistance with skin issues.
Many autoimmune diseases cause some form of inflammation. That is because the organ or tissue is being irritated by the attacking antibodies. In cases such as lupus, inflammation will flare-up in the body and then suddenly improve. Some diseases cause excess tissue growth that can cause organ failure, while others, such as rheumatoid arthritis, affects joint linings that cause painful swelling. Temporary inflammation can occur for a number of reasons, but if you sense a pattern or increased inflammation, you should visit your doctor.
Not every person with these symptoms has an autoimmune disorder, but it’s a good idea to keep these in mind.