Autoimmune Diseases 101 – HealthyWomen

Autoimmune Diseases 101 – HealthyWomen

It’s most likely not shocking that coronary heart illness and most cancers are the 2 most typical classes of illness within the United States, however would you imagine autoimmune illness is available in at quantity three? About 8% of Americans have an autoimmune illness, and almost 80% of them are women.

With autoimmune illness, the immune system errors a part of the physique as a international invader and assaults, stated Dr. Stuart D. Kaplan, chief of rheumatology at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside, New York. “That causes problems because when the body attacks itself, there’s usually inflammation of whatever part is being attacked — whether it be the joints, gastrointestinal (GI) tract or other parts of the body.”

Are there any methods to stop autoimmune ailments from growing? Aside from intercourse and genetics, stress is without doubt one of the largest general threat elements, Kaplan defined. “Stress plays a large role in probably the development and certainly exacerbation of these diseases,” he stated. “So trying to minimize stress, both physical and emotional, goes a long way.”

Learn the indicators of autoimmune ailments

There are round 80 totally different autoimmune ailments, starting from uncommon to widespread. Because women carry many of the burden in the case of these situations, realizing about a few of the extra frequent ailments might make it easier to acknowledge the indicators.

Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune dysfunction that causes sudden hair loss, often in patches. It happens when the immune system assaults wholesome hair follicles. Men and women of all ages and ethnicities may be affected by AA, with signs often beginning to seem throughout childhood.

While AA could cause hair loss wherever on the physique, many individuals develop spherical bald patches on the scalp. In about 50% of people with AA, hair grows again inside a yr of falling out. Unpredictable cycles of hair loss and regrowth can go on for years.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune illness that happens in males and women equally. It impacts the pores and skin, rushing up the expansion of pores and skin cells and inflicting patches of thick, pink and scaly pores and skin. These patches usually seem on the elbows, knees, scalp, face, decrease again, palms and soles of the ft.

Inflammation from psoriasis can have an effect on not simply the pores and skin however different tissues, organs and joints, inflicting situations like psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and elevating the danger of significant health issues, reminiscent of coronary heart assault and stroke.

Psoriatic arthritis

Affecting one in three individuals with psoriasis, PsA is a sort of arthritis that includes joint swelling, ache and stiffness. Like psoriasis, PsA can enhance your threat of growing different health issues, together with:

As far as threat elements for growing PsA, household historical past is a giant one — about 40% of individuals with psoriasis or PsA have a family history of those ailments. Although women and males get the illness on the identical fee, they’re affected in numerous methods and women usually don’t reply as nicely to therapy.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes swelling within the lining of your joints. The most important signs of RA are painful, swollen joints, however irritation from RA can have an effect on different elements of the physique as nicely. In about 40% of people with RA, the illness impacts the pores and skin, eyes, coronary heart, lungs, kidneys, bone marrow and different elements of the physique past the joints.

Some of the danger elements for RA are:

  • Sex (women usually tend to develop RA than males)
  • Smoking
  • Family historical past of RA
  • Excess weight

As with many autoimmune ailments, RA will increase the danger of different health issues, together with heart problems, osteoporosis, lymphoma and lung illness.

Atopic dermatitis

A kind of eczema, atopic dermatitis (AD) causes itchy, pink patches all around the physique. Some of the signs and unintended effects of AD are:

  • Sensitive pores and skin
  • Allergies (together with extreme meals allergic reactions)
  • Asthma
  • Skin infections
  • Poor sleep

Hormonal adjustments throughout the reproductive years make AD more common in women than males. A private or household historical past of eczema, allergic reactions or bronchial asthma are additionally main threat elements for AD.

Crohn’s illness

Crohn’s disease is a sort of inflammatory bowel illness (IBD) that impacts the digestive system, and it impacts women extra ceaselessly than males. With Crohn’s illness, irritation in numerous elements of the digestive tract causes signs reminiscent of:

  • Stomach ache and cramping
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Malnutrition

Crohn’s could cause individuals to really feel weak, drained and sick, and it may be life-threatening in some circumstances. It might trigger issues within the digestive system reminiscent of ulcers and bowel obstruction, the place broken tissue blocks the intestines, probably requiring surgical procedure to take away it. Crohn’s can even trigger irritation in elements of the physique outdoors the digestive system, together with your joints, pores and skin and liver.

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is one other kind of IBD. UC is totally different from Crohn’s in that irritation solely occurs within the giant gut and colon as an alternative of the complete digestive tract, however the two share signs like abdomen cramping and diarrhea. Some different signs of UC are:

  • Rectal ache
  • Problems defecating even while you really feel an pressing want
  • Blood in your stool (poop)

Like Crohn’s illness, UC causes power irritation that may have an effect on extra than simply the digestive system. Arthritis, osteoporosis and toxic megacolon (quickly swelling colon) are a few of the complications that will occur with UC.

Systemic lupus erythematosus

The most typical kind of lupus, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is an autoimmune illness that includes widespread irritation all through the physique.

SLE can have an effect on your:

  • Joints
  • Brain
  • Skin
  • Kidneys
  • Lungs
  • Blood vessels

Symptoms of SLE might embrace:

  • Joint ache and swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Skin rashes
  • Fevers
  • Sun sensitivities
  • Mouth sores
  • Lung, coronary heart and kidney issues

While this illness can have an effect on individuals of all ages, women between the ages of 15 and 44 are at best threat of growing SLE. Of the roughly 1.5 million Americans residing with lupus, 90% are women. People belonging to minority racial and ethnic groups (Black, Latinx, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native) are affected by SLE extra usually than white individuals.

Getting a prognosis

If you’re involved about autoimmune illness, speak to your healthcare supplier. The sooner you’re in a position to get a prognosis, the earlier you can begin treating your situation and discovering help.

Autoimmune Association
National Organization for Rare Disorders

This useful resource was created with help from Eli Lilly.

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