Autoimmune Disorders Symptoms
Symptoms of autoimmune disease vary widely depending on the type
of disease. A group of very nonspecific symptoms often accompany autoimmune diseases
especially of the collagen vascular type and include:
- malaise (nonspecific feeling of not being well)
- fever, low-grade temperature elevations
Specific autoimmune disease symptoms results in:
- destruction of an organ or tissue resulting in decreased functioning of an organ or
tissue (for example, the islet cells of the pancreas are destroyed in diabetes)
- increase in size of an organ or tissue (for example, thyroid enlargement in Grave's
Autoimmune Disorders Symptoms by condition
- Systemic lupus erythematosus. Symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, weight loss, skin
rashes (particularly the classic "butterfly" rash on the face), vasculitis,
polyarthralgia, patchy hair loss, sores in the mouth or nose, lymph-node enlargement,
gastric problems, and, in women, irregular periods. About half of those who suffer from
lupus develop cardiopulmonary problems, and some may also develop urinary problems. Lupus
can also effect the central nervous system, causing seizures, depression, and psychosis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Initially may be characterized by a low-grade fever, loss of
appetite, weight loss, and a generalized pain in the joints. The joint pain then becomes
more specific, usually beginning in the fingers, then spreading to other areas, such as
the wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles. As the disease progresses, joint function
diminishes sharply and deformities occur, particularly the characteristic "swan's
neck" curling of the fingers.
- Goodpasture's syndrome. Symptoms are similar to that of iron deficiency anemia,
including fatigue and pallor. Symptoms involving the lungs may range from a cough that
produces bloody sputum to outright hemorrhaging. Symptoms involving the urinary system
include blood in the urine and/or swelling.
- Grave's disease. This disease is characterized by an enlarged thyroid gland, weight loss
without loss of appetite, sweating, heart palpitations, nervousness, and an inability to
- Hashimoto's thyroiditis. This disorder generally displays no symptoms.
- Pemphigus vulgaris. This disease is characterized by blisters and deep lesions on the
- Myasthenia gravis. Characterized by fatigue and muscle weakness that at first may be
confined to certain muscle groups, but then may progress to the point of paralysis.
Myasthenia gravis patients often have expressionless faces as well as difficulty chewing
and swallowing. If the disease progresses to the respiratory system, artificial
respiration may be required.
- Scleroderma. Disorder is usually preceded by Raynaud's phenomenon. Symptoms that follow
include pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints, and the skin takes on a tight, shiny
appearance. The digestive system also becomes involved, resulting in weight loss, appetite
loss, diarrhea, constipation, and distention of the abdomen. As the disease progresses,
the heart, lungs, and kidneys become involved, and malignant hypertension causes death in
approximately 30% of cases.
- Autoimmune hemolytic anemia. May be acute or chronic. Symptoms include fatigue and
abdominal tenderness due to an enlarged spleen.
- Autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura. Characterized by pinhead-size red dots on the skin,
unexplained bruises, bleeding from the nose and gums, and blood in the stool.
- Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis. In polymyositis, symptoms include muscle weakness,
particularly in the shoulders or pelvis, that prevents the patient from performing
everyday activities. In dermatomyositis, the same muscle weakness is accompanied by a rash
that appears on the upper body, arms, and fingertips. A rash may also appear on the
eyelids, and the area around the eyes may become swollen.
- Pernicious anemia. Signs of pernicious anemia include weakness, sore tongue, bleeding
gums, and tingling in the extremities. Because the disease causes a decrease in stomach
acid, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, and constipation are
possible. Also, because Vitamin B12 is essential for the nervous system
function, the deficiency of it brought on by the disease can result in a host of
neurological problems, including weakness, lack of coordination, blurred vision, loss of
fine motor skills, loss of the sense of taste, ringing in the ears, and loss of bladder
- Sjögren's syndrome. Characterized by excessive dryness of the mouth and eyes.
- Ankylosing spondylitis. Generally begins with lower back pain that progresses up the
spine. The pain may eventually become crippling.
- Vasculitis. Symptoms depend upon the group of veins affected and can range greatly.
- Type I diabetes mellitus. Characterized by fatigue and an abnormally high level of
glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia).
Information compiled from the National Institutes of Health