What are the symptoms of autoimmune diseases?

Symptoms of autoimmune diseases vary widely depending on the type of disease and the individual case. Some autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, may have no noticeable symptoms or vague symptoms early in the disease process.

Symptoms of other autoimmune diseases can greatly impact peoples’ lives. For example, multiple sclerosis can cause paralysis and loss of eyesight, and systemic lupus erythematosus can cause seizures, hallucinations, and liver damage.

Some autoimmune diseases can cause symptoms in acute stages, called attacks or flares, which may last anywhere from days to weeks. Flares can occur days, months or even years apart. Other autoimmune symptoms can become chronic.

Vague symptoms that occur frequently with many autoimmune diseases include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Generalized aches and discomfort
  • Malaise
  • Skin changes
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain

Symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition

In some cases, autoimmune diseases can become life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms:

  • Bleeding symptoms, such as bleeding during pregnancy; large amount of blood in the urine; severe, persistent rectal bleeding; grossly bloody stool; or vomiting blood.

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

  • Change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations or delusions

  • Chest pain, discomfort, or palpitations

  • Debilitating dizziness

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

  • Not urinating

  • Respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, wheezing, not breathing, or choking

  • Seizure

  • Severe pain

  • Thinking or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself or another person

  • Wet, loose cough that produces yellow, green, or white phlegm

  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)


What are autoimmune diseases?

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system mistakes its own healthy cells for harmful foreign ones and attacks them. This can result in destruction of healthy tissues, changes in the way organs normally function, and abnormal growth of organs. Autoimmune diseases are extremely common. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are more than 80 different types of autoimmu... Read more about autoimmune diseasesintroduction


What causes autoimmune diseases?

A normal, healthy immune system identifies potentially harmful foreign substances in your body, such as viruses, bacteria and cancer cells. It then attempts to eliminate them with antibodies. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakes the body’s own healthy cells and tissues for harmful substances and attacks them with antibodies known as autoantibodies. This can result in destru... Read more about autoimmune diseasescauses


How are autoimmune diseases treated?

Most autoimmune diseases are not preventable or curable. They are often linked to genetic factors or develop due to unknown environmental factors, such as medications or prior viral infections. However, prompt treatment of autoimmune diseases can help reduce or delay the onset of serious complications in people diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

Treatment plans vary depending o... Read more about autoimmune diseasestreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Allergies and the Immune System