Autoimmune Disease : Types and Their Causes

July 18, 2022

What does Autoimmune Disease mean?

The condition where your immune system starts attacking your own body is called an Autoimmune Disease. This disease occurs when your immune system does not work as it should.

Normally, your immune system protects your body by fighting against germs and other foreign particles. But in the case of autoimmune conditions, your immune system mistakes your body parts for foreign objects and starts attacking them. 

It may attack any part of your body. Be it a cell, tissue, joint or organ. The defective system can send its cells to attack the whole body or a single part of it. 

There is no conclusive reason why your body’s immune system short circuits. It can only be detected after it starts attacking your healthy body parts. 

There are more than 80 types of autoimmune conditions. Below are a few of the common conditions that people suffer from.

Types of Autoimmune Diseases And Their Symptoms:

1. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory condition which results in joint pain, including those in the hands and feet. In this case, the body’s immune system attacks its own joints, confusing them for a foreign object. It causes damage, aches and a lack of strength in the affected joints. 

Symptoms include -

  • Pain and Swelling in joints
  • Stiffness after being inactive for long, especially in the mornings
  • Warm and tender joints
  • Fatigue

2. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy thyroid cells resulting in damage to the thyroid gland. It results in thyroiditis, which is the leakage of excess thyroid hormone in the blood to the point that the thyroid gland no longer produces enough hormone. This leads to hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Disease. 

Symptoms are-

  • Unexplainable weight gain
  • Cold intolerance
  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Irregular periods

3. Grave’s diseases

Grave’s disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own cells, damaging the thyroid gland and making it overactive. It is a form of hyperthyroidism. 

Symptoms include- 

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Unexplainable weight loss
  • Sleeping troubles
  • Heat intolerance
  • Sweating 
  • Irritability
  • Irregular periods

4. Type-1 Diabetes Mellitus

In Type 1 Diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas and the body loses its ability to make insulin or barely produces any insulin. A person who has Type 1 Diabetes usually needs to take insulin injections on a daily basis. 

Symptoms include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Unexplained weight loss, even upon eating well
  • Increased hunger (especially after eating)
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Heavy, labored breathing 
  • Frequent infections of your skin, urinary tract, or vagina
  • Crankiness or mood swings

5. Psoriasis

It is an autoimmune disease where new skin cells are formed at a faster rate. This causes scaling of the skin. The area surrounding the scales also becomes inflamed and red.

Symptoms include-

  • Scaly, itchy and dry patches on the skin 

5. Vitiligo

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which loss of skin color and blotches occur because the body’s own immune system attacks the pigment producing cells in the body. White patches occur on the skin. 

6. Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)

IBD is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells in the digestive tract, which cause inflammation. This disease manifests in two forms— Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease affects almost all of the gastrointestinal tract, mainly the colon and the last part of the small intestine (ileum). In ulcerative colitis, the lining of your colon, i.e. the large intestine, is disrupted. 

Symptoms are-

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stools

7. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia, also known as fibrositis, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks muscles and nerves, which results in extensive muscle pain. 

Symptoms include- 

  • Widespread tenderness
  • Sleep problems
  • Emotional and mental distress
  • Fatigue
  • Mood and memory issues

8. Celiac Disease (CD)

Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune cells produce an inflammatory reaction to gluten intake (present in wheat, rye and barley). This disease especially damages the small intestine lining and you see issues with absorption of nutrients as the first sign of celiac disease. 

Symptoms typically include- 

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Fatigue
  • Malabsorption of certain nutrients 

Celiac disease happens due to the consumption of foods containing gluten (even trace amounts) and genetics.

9. Chronic fatigue syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks natural killer cells (part of your WBCs). This impacts the ability of healthy cells to make energy, further resulting in extreme tiredness and fatigue both physically and mentally. 

Symptoms are-

  • Pain 
  • Sleep abnormalities
  • Physical and mental fatigue 

And all these symptoms are made worse by exertion. Even rest is unable to improve the conditions. 

CFS is often accompanied by Fibromyalgia.

10. Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune cells attack the healthy hair follicles. This results in hair loss from some areas of your body, mostly the head (spot baldness).

Symptoms include-

  • Patchy hair loss 
  • Bald patches
  • Brittle, red fingernails and toenails 

11. Myasthenia gravis (MG)

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the neuromuscular junction and causes muscle weakness. The muscles under voluntary control are affected. Muscles under voluntary control mean muscles which can be voluntarily moved like your hand muscles.

Symptoms include-

  • Weakness in arm and leg muscles
  • Double vision
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Difficulties with speech and chewing 

12. Lupus

Lupus, also known as Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is an autoimmune disease in which cells of the immune system attack almost all healthy cells, tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. 

Symptoms include-

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Fever
  • Rashes
  • Chest pain
  • Hair loss
  • Sun or light sensitivity
  • Kidney problems
  • Mouth sores

13. Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and damages the myelin sheath. Myelin sheath is a sheet covering or insulating layer around nerves that protect them from damage. This disease results in nerve damage and disrupted brain-body communication. 

Symptoms include-

  • Vision loss
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired coordination and blackouts
  • Imbalance issues

14. Guillain Barre Syndrome

Guillain Barre Syndrome is a rare, autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune cells attack the nerves causing weakness. Tingling in the hands and feet is the initial symptom and can lead to paralysis, sometimes with a fatal outcome. 

Symptoms are-

  • Tingling sensations in hands, feet and other body parts
  • Weakness starting from the legs and spreading upwards 
  • Difficulty in climbing stairs 
  • Labored facial movements

15. Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a rare form of arthritis (inflammation of joints) in which the body’s immune system attacks the healthy spine and large joints. This causes reduced flexibility in the spine.

Symptoms are-  

  • Forward hunch 
  • Pain and stiffness in the ankle, heel, hip, joints, lower back, middle back, neck, or shoulder

What Causes Autoimmune Diseases?

There are multiple reasons that can cause autoimmune diseases. It is quite difficult to know the reason behind them. Getting your blood analyzed by a Functional Nutritionist is a great way of defining the reason behind your autoimmune condition. 

Knowing the root cause behind your disease can help you control and even reverse them. A few general causes for your autoimmune condition can be :

  • Environmental toxins
  • Infections 
  • Diet high in processed foods
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Radiation exposure

The best way to reverse autoimmune conditions is to change your diet and lifestyle. After years of successfully treating clients with autoimmune conditions, Functional nutritionist Mugdha Pradhan swears that FOOD is the cure for almost all diseases.

She noted, “One thing that works best for all autoimmune conditions is stopping all inflammatory foods. - gluten and more.” 

This does not mean you will cure your condition just by eliminating inflammatory foods, but it is a start. 

To know what you can do to reverse your condition visit a Functional nutritionist now.

Sharvi Dave
Research Associate

Experienced writer with a demonstrated history of working in the writing & editing history. skilled in writing, communication, digital marketing, & general aviation. Strong media & communication professional with a Bachelor of Science - Bs focussed in Aeronautics/Aviation/Aerospace Science & Technology General from Bombay Flying Club.

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