6 common autoimmune conditions

Catching autoimmune disease early can help reduce the level of damage and inflammation, so make sure you see your GP if you notice any of the following signs of these more common autoimmune conditions:

Autoimmune disease – PICTURE – Women's Health & Fitness


The immune system treats normal skin cells as pathogens and tries to grow new ones, causing overgrowth of skin cells. These rapidly build up to form inflamed skin patches. 

Signs: Red, irritated skin that may also develop thick, flaky or silvery-white patches. It may be both painful, tender and itchy. Over time, joints may also feel sore or hot due to internal inflammation. 

Rheumatoid arthritis:

The body attacks the tissues lining the joints and inflames the synovium, which contains a thick fluid, which looks a little like egg white and lubricates the area between joints.

Signs: Inflammation occurs around joints ,causing pain, heat and swelling, sometimes accompanied by weight loss, fever, lethargy and hard, round nodules under the skin.

Multiple sclerosis:

The myelin sheath, which protects nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord, is attacked and damaged by the immune system. Messages to and from the brain are then interrupted, just like electrical energy is interrupted during a blackout.

Signs: Blurred or double vision, slurring of words or speech difficulty, fatigue, weakness in arms or legs, loss of mobility, co-ordination, muscle spasms, trouble with memory and concentration

Diabetes Type 1:

The immune system attacks and damages the islet cells that make insulin in the pancreas. With too little insulin to reduce blood glucose levels, the body has elevated blood sugars, which can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves and other organs.

Signs: Excessive thirst, frequent urination, hunger, blurry eyesight, tiredness, slow healing of sores, dry, itchy skin, numbness or tingling in feet.

Coeliac disease:

In response to gluten, the immune system damages the lining of the small intestine and absorption of nutrients is reduced.

Signs: Tummy bloating and pain, diarrhoea or constipation, weight loss or gain, fatigue, chronic skin rash, missed periods or infertility.

nflammatory bowel disease: This includes conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which occur when the immune system attacks and damages the layers and lining of the bowel, causing chronic inflammation.

Signs: Abdominal pain, diarrhoea (sometimes with blood or pus), rectal bleeding, fever, weight loss and exhaustion, mouth ulcers, painful or difficult bowel motions.

Thyroid disease:

The immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing Grave’s disease, where the body makes too much thyroid hormone, or Hashimoto’s disease, where the body doesn’t make enough.

Signs: Graves disease: Weight loss, sweating, bulging eyes, shaking, irritability, muscle weakness.

Hashimotos: Weight gain, fluid retention, sensitivity to cold, facial swelling, constipation, weakness, fatigue, muscle aches and stiff joints. 



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