Lupus. Multiple sclerosis. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Sjogren’s syndrome. Rheumatoid arthritis. Autoimmune hepatitis. Celiac disease. Crohn’s disease. Juvenile-onset diabetes. Most people are surprised to learn that these are all examples of autoimmune diseases.
Although these diseases are common and relevant, it is usually not until celebrities announce that they have been stricken with an autoimmune disease that people start to take notice.
For example, Venus Williams told the world that she was sidelined by a diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome. Nick Cannon revealed that he has been diagnosed with a “lupus-like” disease.
What is Autoimmune Disease?
Autoimmune disease is a constellation of diseases in which the body’s immune system begins to recognize normal cells (self) as foreign (non-self) and, as a consequence, attacks the cells. An immune/inflammatory response is triggered, and leads to destruction of the specific tissue. The destruction can be major or minor; and at times is life-threatening.
Initial symptoms are variable, depending on the organ system involved, but the unifying symptoms for almost all cases are fatigue, and a general sense of malaise.
Some autoimmune diseases are organ-specific, but others can be systemic (affecting multiple organ systems). We do not know what triggers this autoimmune response in most people, but in some cases, there is a genetic component. Incidence of these diseases is also known to be highly gender-specific, often affecting women in greater numbers than men, by a ratio of 3:1.
It is interesting to note that autoimmune diseases run in packs; i.e., if you are diagnosed with one, you are likely to be affected by another one sometime later in life.
Here are 6 signs that you may have an autoimmune disease:
1. Joint pain, muscle or pain or weakness
2. Recurrent rashes or hives, sun-sensitivity, a butterfly-shaped rash across your nose and cheeks
3. Difficulty concentrating or focusing