For the past few decades, autoimmune diseases are on the rise. More than 80 conditions are listed under autoimmune diseases that can range from a mild allergy to organ-specific conditions. Some of these conditions can essentially harmless outside some slight discomfort while some are life-threatening. These conditions arise as a result of a malfunctioning of the body’s defense mechanism- the immune system. Our body contains special cells called macrophages which protect us from bacterial and viral infections. But when these cells get wrong signals, they start attacking healthy cells leading to chronic health disorders and this phenomenon is termed autoimmunity. Most autoimmune diseases share common symptoms and getting to know the most common symptoms is the first step towards protecting ourselves from further complications and improving our quality of life.
Here are the major early symptoms of Autoimmune diseases:
Itchy Skin or Skin Rash :
Your skin is the largest external organ of the body which can say a lot about your health. Underlying conditions can cause the skin to reflect what is happening inside the body. Unusual rashes, blotchy skin, redness can be a sign of the autoimmune condition. Even sunsensitivity or sudden outbursts of acne or eczema indicate that something is not right internally. Not all skin conditions are indicative of an autoimmune condition but any inexplicable and abnormal changes in the skin can be because of an overactive immune response. Certain autoimmune disorders such as lupus erythematosus, vitiligo,scleroderma, and psoriasis are directly linked to the health of the skin. Changes in the texture and color of skin along with swelling of areas in and on the bodymust be examined by proper medical professionals.
Tiredness and Brain fog:
Ideally, a healthy person does not get tired after a good nightsleep of 7 to 8 hours. But when an individual has a weakened immune system, they feeladditionally tired and would want to take naps even after a full night's sleep. Chronic fatigue is a common symptom for many autoimmune-related diseases such as autoimmune hepatitis, Hashimoto’s disease, Haemolytic anemia, coeliac disease,and other similar diseases.Brain fog is a symptom of an underlying medical condition.It’s a type of cognitive dysfunction, involving lack of concentration and mental clarity, confusion and inability to focus on work or daily activities. Persistent fatigue and brain fog can indicate conditions such as fibromyalgia, diabetes, Hypothyroidism and Sjögren syndrome.
Weight Loss or Weight Gain :
Unexplained weight loss or weight gain of an individual without any alteration in diet or physical activity is quite a serious healthconcern that should be evaluated by a physician. Fluctuations in weight are associated with chronic medical complications and certain autoimmune conditions. Hypothyroidism which induces slow metabolic rate causes weight gain while Grave’s disease causes weight loss. So, conduct a self-evaluation on your weight periodically just to rule out this fluctuating symptom.
Muscle and Joint Pains :
If you notice tenderness or pain in your joints on a regular basis for over a long period, it could be a sign of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Frequent or chronic stiffness or twitching in muscles and joints could be because of abnormal functioning of the immune system that attacks healthy cells and tissues whichresults in inflammation.Treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is most effective when identified early because RA attacks the tissue throughout the body and overtime causes limping and impaired activity. Muscle aches and joint pain is also associated with Lupus, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, systemic scleroderma and Fibromyalgia.
Discomfort in Gastro-Intestinal Tract :
Generally, mild abdominal cramps and diarrhea come and go in a few days and can be attributed to bad eating habits or mild food infection. However, when there is an abnormal immune response in our body, it causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract leading to Inflammatory Bowel Disease.IBD is an umbrella term used to describe the digestive disorders and inflammation in your gut. Based on the severity of the inflammation, symptoms may range wildly.Chronic diarrhea, fever and fatigue, blood in the stool, chronic abdominal pain, reduced appetite and unintended weightloss are some of the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Seek medical attention when you see changes in your bowel habits for an extended period of time.
Swelling of the Glands :
Most of the inflammation associated with autoimmune diseases occurs inside the body and is not visible to our eyes. However, our body definitely shows obvious signs with the inflammation of lymph glands around the neck, underarms, and chin while fighting certain bacterial or viral infections. When we have underlying autoimmune conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sarcoidosis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus this swelling is noticeable. Enlargement of the Thyroid gland in the neck area indicates a disruption in the normal functions of the thyroid gland which plays a vital role in regulating our body’s metabolism. Enlargement of the thyroid gland is called a goiter and it could be a sign ofHyperthyroidism.
If you have noticed any of these symptoms, please make an appointment with your general physician or a medical practitioner. New and improved tests are now available for specific diagnosis and better treatment.The earlier an autoimmune disease is detected, the easier it is to manage the disease and improve the healing process. Nevertheless, we want everyone to be healthy by embracing good lifestyles and eating habits.