Autoimmune disease is a many-headed beast. There are plenty of different kinds, each with varied effects and seriousness, and as such there are different warning signs for each kind of autoimmune disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Graves’ disease are a few of upwards of 80 types of autoimmune diseases recognized in contemporary medicine. What unites these diseases is an under active or overactive immune system.
It seems contradictory, but the system that’s meant to defend your body can harm your body if it works to hard. If a trigger that is unidentifiable sets off an autoimmune response (what most autoimmune diseases do) the antibodies produced could end up attacking harmless tissue in confusion.
10 indicators of autoimmune disease
Sudden Weight Loss – This is one of the most common early indicator of most autoimmune disease. Regardless of the source, losing weight without any change in physical effort or dietary trends isn’t natural. This symptom is often paired with celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and grave’s disease among others.
Muscle or Joint Pain – You may notice that your muscles are sore without significant effort, or perhaps bending at particular joints makes you uncomfortable. This symptom also might have a sharper and temporary but recurring pain.
Poor Mental Performance – It might suddenly become difficult for someone to remain focused and interested in something. A feeling of mental fogginess has been paired with many different conditions, but with has paired with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and myasthenia gravis.
Recurring Skin Breakouts – This symptom could be linked to an autoimmune disease with sun-sensitivity that causes itchy spotting. Many types of hives or rashes that appears in sudden bursts, sometimes identifiable with triggers such as dry weather and certain foods, can be linked to autoimmune disease.
Fatigue or Weight Gain – Sudden weight gain and tiredness is also tied into several autoimmune disorders such as celiac disease and autoimmune hepatitis. Occasional tiredness or weight fluctuation is fine, but if it happens often or in dramatic fashion it could be time to investigate the root cause.
Dryness – Dryness is a common link with autoimmune disease and can appear in several areas. The skin, mouth and eyes are the most notable areas that cause discomfort in patients with autoimmune disorders.
Numbness – This is one of the most narrowed and easily identifiable symptoms. If a patient loses feeling or experiences random tingling sensations in their hands or feet, or any other part of the body, it could be linked with an overactive response of antibodies.
Blood Clots and Miscarriages – Some symptoms of autoimmune disease are unfortunately more dramatic and life changing than others. Blood clotting in the artery can lead to serious health implications, and miscarriages are sometimes linked with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome and celiac disease. Some autoimmune diseases can also cause unexplained bruising on your body.
Hair Loss or Skin Patches – Certain autoimmune diseases, such as alopecia areata, will directly attach the hair follicles and cause patches of baldness. There are also some that create discolored patches of flesh, usually white and with flaking of the skin.
Digestion Trouble or Abdominal Pain – Pain in the stomach might come in short bursts or with prolonged soreness. An irregular frequency of digestion, as well as blood or discoloration in stool or urine, may also indicate unnecessary autoimmune responses.
Your doctor may order blood test for checking the levels of the enzyme creatine phosphokinase (or, CPK) in the blood. If you have an autoimmune disorder, it will cause CPK lab tests to show higher than normal results.
Reversing autoimmune disease
There’s more than 80 different kinds that are sometimes difficult to identify, but that doesn’t doom individuals to live a lifelong battle with their autoimmune disease. There’s usually little a doctor can do, so the power of prevention is in the patient’s hand. The first step here is obviously identification of the disease. If there are persistent symptoms of concern, the best thing to do is consult a medical professional. A doctor will often give a concrete account of the disease so you can look up the specific trigger activity and treatment options.
The most effective way to fight an autoimmune disease is to identify the trigger that is sending out overworked antibodies, or creating under-worked ones. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), there is growing agreement that autoimmune diseases are likely the result from interactions between genetic and environmental factors. Some of the environmental factors NIEHS mentions are:
- Significant exposure to asbestos
- Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight
- Exposure to solvents, including paint thinners, cleaning supplies, and nail polish
- Exposure to fine particles of crystalline silica
- Eating gluten
Identifying your specific disorder with a physician will be much easier with these triggers in mind. Distance yourself from the factors and see if the condition gets better or stays the same. Many physicians recommend experimenting with new diets and cutting highly inflammatory food. Y
Many of the skin disorders, such as psoriasis get far worse if they are allowed to dry up and spread. Generous daily lotion application, especially after a shower, will keep your skin moist and better protected from an autoimmune flare.
It’s important to keep in mind that most individual symptoms are never an explicit indicator of any disease. The symptoms listed above seem general because many are general indicators for a wide variety of conditions. You might exhibit a symptom or two that is tied to something completely different than autoimmune disease, but each one listed shouldn’t go ignored. A doctor might prefer treating a minor symptom without looking too far into it, but without finding the root cause it could enable a worse-off future for the patient.