14 common autoimmune diseases
1. Type 1 diabetes
The pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
High blood sugar can damage blood vessels, as well as organs like the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
2. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the immune system attacks the joints. This attack causes redness, warmth, soreness, and stiffness in the joints.
Unlike osteoarthritis, which affects people as they get older, RA can start as early as your 30s.
3. Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis
Skin cells normally grow and then shed when they’re no longer needed. Psoriasis causes skin cells to multiply too quickly. The extra cells build up and form red, scaly patches called scales or plaques on the skin.
About 30 percent of people with psoriasis also develop swelling, stiffness, and pain in their joints. This form of the disease is called psoriatic arthritis.
4. Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) damages the myelin sheath — the protective coating that surrounds nerve cells. Damage to the myelin sheath affects the transmission of messages between your brain and body.
This damage can lead to symptoms like numbness, weakness, balance issues, and trouble walking. The disease comes in several forms, which progress at different rates. About 50 percent of people with MS need help walking within 15 years after getting the disease.
5. Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)
Although doctors in the 1800s first described lupus as a skin disease because of the rash it produces, it actually affects many organs, including the joints, kidneys, brain, and heart.
Joint pain, fatigue, and rashes are among the most common symptoms.
6. Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term used to describe conditions that cause inflammation in the lining of the intestines. Each type of IBD affects a different part of the GI tract.
Crohn’s disease can inflame any part of the GI tract, from the mouth to the anus.
Ulcerative colitis affects only the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum.
7. Addison’s disease
Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands, which produce the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. Having too little of these hormones can affect the way the body uses and stores carbohydrates and sugar.
Symptoms include weakness, fatigue, weight loss, and low blood sugar.
8. Graves’ disease
Graves’ disease attacks the thyroid gland in the neck, causing it to produce too much of its hormones. Thyroid hormones control the body’s energy usage, or metabolism.
Having too much of these hormones revs up your body’s activities, causing symptoms like nervousness, a fast heartbeat, heat intolerance, and weight loss.
One common symptom of this disease is bulging eyes, called exophthalmos. It affects up to 50 percent of people with Graves’ disease.
9. Sjögren’s syndrome
This condition attacks the joints, as well as glands that provide lubrication to the eyes and mouth. The hallmark symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome are joint pain, dry eyes, and dry mouth.
10. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, thyroid hormone production slows. Symptoms include weight gain, sensitivity to cold, fatigue, hair loss, and swelling of the thyroid (goiter).
11. Myasthenia gravis
Myasthenia gravis affects nerves that help the brain control the muscles. When these nerves are impaired, signals can’t direct the muscles to move.
The most common symptom is muscle weakness that gets worse with activity and improves with rest. Often muscles that control swallowing and facial movements are involved.
Vasculitis happens when the immune system attacks blood vessels. The inflammation that results narrows the arteries and veins, allowing less blood to flow through them.
13. Pernicious anemia
This condition affects a protein called intrinsic factor that helps the intestines absorb vitamin B-12 from food. Without this vitamin, the body can’t make enough red blood cells.
Pernicious anemia is more common in older adults. It affects 0.1 percent of people in general, but nearly 2 percent of people over age 60.
14. Celiac disease
People with celiac disease can’t eat foods containing gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye, and other grain products. When gluten is in the intestine, the immune system attacks it and causes inflammation.
Celiac disease affects about 1 percent of people in the United States. A larger number of people have gluten sensitivity, which isn’t an autoimmune disease, but can have similar symptoms like diarrhea and abdominal pain.