Common Autoimmune Diseases in Women

Common Autoimmune Diseases in Women

Lara Reden
5 minute read

When your body attacks itself, you might have an autoimmune disease. How can you be sure to recognize a problem, get it properly diagnosed, and find an effective treatment method? There are a variety of management techniques, including lifestyle choices and medication. We’ll go over common autoimmune diseases, symptoms of autoimmune disorders, diagnosis of autoimmune diseases, and some management techniques. 

What are Autoimmune Disorders?

When your body’s natural defenses can’t recognize the difference between your cells and foreign cells and mistakenly attacks normal cells, you may have an autoimmune disease. These disorders aren’t contagious, but they are chronic. Millions of people may develop an autoimmune disorder in their lifetime. More genes originate from the X chromosome, putting women at greater risk. These disorders are considered a top cause of death in women of all age groups up to 64 years. Over 80 types of autoimmune diseases exist, affecting a wide range of body parts. Although an autoimmune disorder can go into remission, in many cases, it’s something you’ll have to manage for the rest of your life. 

Types of Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune diseases can affect many parts of your body. Some of these disorders affect the nervous system, the endocrine system, the skin, joints, muscles, or the digestive tract. The most common autoimmune diseases that women experience are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, and thyroid diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic form of arthritis impacting joints and is more than twice as common in women than men. Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder in which the immune system response leads to skin cells growing too fast in response to inflammation. Psoriasis can increase your risk of developing psoriatic arthritis, a disorder characterized by joint pain and swelling, often accompanied by morning stiffness. Women between the ages of 15 and 45 have a greater risk of Lupus. It can cause joint pain, skin rashes, fever, and organ damage. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are considered common autoimmune disorders. Hashimoto’s disease, a common form of hypothyroidism, leads to an underactive thyroid. Graves’ disease, a type of hyperthyroidism, causes the overproduction of thyroid hormones. 

Symptoms for many types of autoimmune diseases may vary by coming in waves. When symptoms are at their worst or come on suddenly out of the blue, it’s considered a flare-up. If your symptoms disappear, the disorder might be in remission. Some autoimmune disorders increase the risk of heart disease, so be sure to have regular checkups with your primary care provider to stay on top of other possible complications, including pregnancy complications. If you have lupus, you may also be at greater risk of preterm birth or stillbirth. Some women also experience fertility issues due to their autoimmune disorders. Certain medications may not be safe to use in pregnancy. If you would like to have a baby and have an autoimmune disease, have a chat with your primary care provider about the impact of your autoimmune condition on possible pregnancy. . 

Signs and Symptoms of Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune diseases can impact different people to different degrees. The variance can be due to your genes, health, and certain environmental factors. Specific symptoms will depend on the type of autoimmune disorder. Common signs typically associated with many different autoimmune conditions to look for include:

  • Fatigue

  • Joint pain and swelling

  • Skin problems

  • Abdominal pain or digestive issues

  • Recurring fever

  • Swollen glands

  • Nausea

How do you Diagnose Autoimmune Disorders?

It can be challenging to get a proper diagnosis because symptoms are often also symptoms of other common conditions. Knowing the risk factors may help the diagnosis process. Risk factors include: 

  • Being a woman of childbearing age 

  • Genetics 

  • Race 

  • Weight 

  • Environmental circumstances 

  • Smoking  

  • Certain medications 

It’s unclear what the underlying cause may be for autoimmune diseases. Specific factors that can impact the likelihood of developing an autoimmune disorder are conditional on the type of disease. 

Who can Diagnose Autoimmune Disorders?

To get an accurate diagnosis, you may need to go to a specialist. Depending on which symptoms you are experiencing, you may need to consult with a(n):

  • Nephrologist (kidney specialist) 

  • Rheumatologist (for arthritis or lupus) 

  • Endocrinologist (gland and hormonal problems)

  • Neurologist (for nerve issues)

  • Dermatologist (skin specialist)

  • Various therapists (physical, occupational, or vocational)  

Management and Treatment of Autoimmune Disorders

The type of treatment depends on which disease you have and the severity of its symptoms. Symptom relief may be over the counter for mild symptoms or prescription. When your body can’t make what it needs, you may need replacement therapy. For example, people with diabetes need to take insulin. Some autoimmune disorders require suppression of immune system activity to control the disease’s progress and extend body function. 

Please discuss any alternative treatment methods with your primary care provider before doing it. Some treatments may interfere with certain medications. To generally improve your wellbeing, you can eat well-balanced meals, get regular physical activity, get enough rest, and find ways to reduce stress levels. If you have questions about lifestyle management, we suggest discussing specifics with your primary care provider and (maybe) other related support workers. 

It may be worthwhile to get your primary care provider’s advice if there’s any sudden change to your general health and wellbeing.

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