Do You Have Autoimmune Disease Symptoms? A Checklist

An autoimmune disease is defined as a condition that results from your immune system wrongly attacking your own own organs, tissues, glands or cells.

Depending on the source you cite, there are at least 80 to more than 100 different conditions that are considered to be autoimmune. Some of these conditions include two common thyroid conditions: Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease.

In addition, other common autoimmune diseases include:

What are the Causes of Autoimmune Diseases 

The causes of autoimmune disease for the most part are unknown. But it's thought that hormones, genetics and heredity, toxic exposures, chronic infection and inflammation, and stress are all factors that play a role in development of autoimmune diseases. Some autoimmune diseases are known to begin or worsen with certain triggers such as viral infections. Sunlight not only acts as a trigger for lupus but can worsen the course of the disease. It is important to be aware of the factors that can be avoided to help prevent or minimize the amount of damage from the autoimmune disease.

Other less understood influences affecting the immune system and the course of autoimmune diseases include aging, chronic stress, hormones, and pregnancy. 

No autoimmune disease has ever been shown to be contagious or "catching." Autoimmune diseases do not spread to other people like infections. They are not related to AIDS, nor are they a type of cancer.

 

Having one autoimmune disease puts you at risk of developing other autoimmune diseases, and means that your first line family members -- parents, siblings children -- are also at risk of developing autoimmune diseases.

The genes people inherit contribute to their susceptibility for developing an autoimmune disease. Certain diseases such as psoriasis can occur among several members of the same family. This suggests that a specific gene or set of genes predisposes a family member to psoriasis. In addition, individual family members with autoimmune diseases may inherit and share a set of abnormal genes, although they may develop different autoimmune diseases. For example, one sibling may have lupus, another may have Crohn's disease, and the mother may have rheumatoid arthritis. 

Statistics about Autoimmune Disease 

Here are some key statistics from the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA)

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates up to 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease, but AARDA believes that numer is actual 50 million and rising. This is in comparison to 9 million Americans with cancer, and 22 million with heart disease.
  • Beyond the 80 to 100 conditions identified as autoimmune there are 40 other diseases thought to be autoimmune in nature.
  • Autoimmune disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in girls and women up to the age of 64.
  • Autoimmune diseases have a genetic component, and tend to run in families.
  • A typical autoimmune patient sees as many as five different doctors over five or more years before getting a correct disease diagnosis

KEY AUTOIMMUNE SYMPTOMS

Across the board, certain symptoms have been identified as common to most autoimmune conditions.

These include the following:

___ JOINT AND MUSCLE PAIN
___ GENERAL MUSCLE WEAKNESS
___ INFECTIONS: Greater susceptibility and more frequent infections -- such as urinary tract, bladder, gum, skin or vaginal infections, as well as viruses -- and slower recovery from those infections
___ RASHES
___ FATIGUE
___ LOW-GRADE FEVER
___ NUMBNESS/TINGLING IN HANDS/FEET
___ DRY EYES / DRY MOUTH
___ WEIGHT LOSS: 10-15 pound range
___ HAIR LOSS
___ SHORTNESS OF BREATH: both general, and on exertion, feeling the need to yawn to get a full breath, or heaviness in the chest that makes breathing more difficult.
___ PALPITATIONS: feeling missed heartbeats, changes in rhythm, skipped beats, irregular heart rhythms, and other types of palpitations
___ RECURRENT MISCARRIAGE
___ DEPRESSION
___ CONCENTRATION/MEMORY PROBLEMS: difficulty thinking and concentrating – "brain fog"

DETAILED AUTOIMMUNE RISK FACTORS AND SYMPTOMS CHECKLIST

The following is a more detailed checklist of frequently-noticed symptoms of autoimmune conditions, as well as some of the diseases most associated with these symptoms. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it covers many of the common autoimmune symptoms. Carefully filling out this checklist -- and the list of common symptoms above -- and taking it to your doctor can be an important first step in getting appropriate testing and the right medical diagnosis.

Fever / Body Temperature

_____ Elevated fever, higher body temperature - Lupus, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome
_____ Feeling cold when others feel hot -- Hashimoto's
_____ Feeling hot when others feel cold -- Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism
_____ Low body temperature -- Hashimoto's

Hair

_____ Hair loss, round bald patches on the scalp -- Alopecia Areata
_____ Hair loss, loss of facial and scalp hair -- Alopecia Totalis, Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Lupus
_____ Male patterned baldness -- Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
_____ Excess hair growth on the face faces, necks, chests, abdomens, and thighs, in women - Cushing's Disease, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
_____ Loss of hair in outer eyebrow -- Hashimoto's
_____ Hair is rough, coarse dry, breaking, brittle - Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism

Skin

_____ Hyperpigmentation, or dark tanning in skin -- Addison's Disease
_____ Painful skin rash, called dermatitis herpetiformis -- Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome
_____ Fragile thin skin - Cushing's Disease
_____ Skin that bruises easily - Cushing's Disease
_____ Acne -- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Hashimoto's
_____ Skin rashes, especially "butterfly rash" on the nose and cheeks -- Lupus
_____ Sun sensitivity -- Lupus
_____ Skin thickening -- Scleroderma
_____ Skin ulcers on the fingers -- Scleroderma

Eyes

_____ Dry eyes -- Sjogren's Syndrome, Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism
_____ Blurred vision -- Sjogren's Syndrome, Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Multiple Sclerosis
_____ Eye discomfort or pain -- Sjogren's Syndrome, Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Multiple Sclerosis
_____ Nystagmus or jerking, rapid involuntary eye movement -- Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto's
_____ Optic neuritis, inflammation of the nerves in the eye -- Multiple Sclerosis
_____ Unclear or double vision -- Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Multiple Sclerosis

Throat, Neck, Voice, Mouth

_____ Dry mouth -- Sjogren's Syndrome
_____ Hoarseness, husky or gravelly voice -- Sjogren's Syndrome, Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism
_____ Difficulty in swallowing -- Sjogren's Syndrome, Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism
_____ Mouth and nose sores -- Lupus
_____ Pale sores inside the mouth, called aphthus ulcers -- Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome
_____ Fullness or pressure, choking sensation in throat, lump in the neck -- Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism

Fatigue, Sleep

_____ Chronic fatigue, fatigue that is not alleviated by rest- Addison's Disease, Hashimoto's, Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Sjogren's Syndrome, Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes
_____ Insomnia -- Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism
_____ Exhaustion after minimal effort or exercise - Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Sjogren's Syndrome, Lupus

Muscles, Joints, Tendons

_____ Pain and tenderness throughout the body - Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lupus, Sjogren's Syndrome
_____ Muscle weakness -- Addison's Disease, Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
_____ Joint Stiffness - Scleroderma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia
_____ Bone, joint and muscle aches, inflammation, and pains -- Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Cushing's Disease, Lupus, Sjogren's Syndrome, Rheumatoid Arthritis
_____ Backaches, unexplained rib and spinal column fractures- Cushing's Disease
_____ Deformed joints - Rheumatoid Arthritis
_____ Carpal-tunnel syndrome / tendinitis -- Hashimoto's

Hands and Feet

_____ Raynaud's phenomenon - (extreme sensitivity to cold in the hands and feet) -- Lupus, Hashimoto's, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism
_____ Swelling in hands and feet - Lupus, Scleroderma, Hashimoto's

Weight Changes

_____ Weight loss -- Addison's Disease, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes
_____ Weight Gain - Cushing's Disease, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome
_____ Weight gain in upper body, abdomen - Cushing's Disease, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
_____ Rounded or puffy face - Cushing's Disease, Hashimoto's
_____ Increased fat around the neck - Cushing's Disease
_____ Thinning arms and legs - Cushing's Disease

Digestion, Gastrointestinal

_____ Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea -- Addison's Disease, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Scleroderma, Type 1 Diabetes
_____ Recurring abdominal bloating and pain -- Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome
_____ Pale, foul-smelling stool -- Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome
_____ Gas -- Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome
_____ Increased urination -- Type 1 Diabetes
_____ Constipation - Hashimoto's

Pulse/Blood Pressure

_____ Low blood pressure -- Addison's Disease, Hashimoto's
_____ High blood pressure- Cushing's Disease, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
_____ Slow pulse -- Hashimoto's
_____ Fast Pulse -- Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism

Mood, Thinking

_____ Irritability, anxiety and depression -- Addison's Disease, Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Cushing's Disease, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's
_____ "Brain Fog," difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness -- Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Balance, Coordination, Neurological Symptoms

_____ Lack of coordination or unsteady gait -- Multiple Sclerosis
_____ Dizziness, vertigo -- Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto's
_____ Numbness, weakness, tingling or paralysis in one or more limbs - Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes
_____ Tremor -- Multiple Sclerosis, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism

Food/Drink & Cravings

_____ Craving of salty foods -- Addison's Disease
_____ Increased thirst -- Type 1 Diabetes
_____ Loss of appetite -- Addison's Disease, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism

Menstruation/Gynecological - Women

_____ Irregular or absent menstrual periods -- Addison's Disease, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's, Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Cushing's Disease, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
_____ Cysts on Ovaries -- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Fertility and Sex Drive, Pregnancy

_____ Infertility or decreased fertility in women -- Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
_____ Decreased fertility in men- Cushing's Disease
_____ Reduced sex drive - Cushing's Disease, Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's _____ Recurrent miscarriage - Graves' Disease/Hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto's, Antiphospholipid syndrome

Breathing

_____ Increase in snoring -- Hashimoto's
_____ Shortness of breath and tightness in the chest -- Hashimoto's

Especially in Children

_____ Delayed growth in children, failure to thrive in infants -- Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Cushing's Disease, Hashimoto's

Blood Changes

_____ Unexplained anemia (low count of red blood cells) -- Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance/Irritable Bowel Syndrome
_____ High cholesterol levels -- Hashimoto's

Blood Sugar Changes

_____ Hypoglycemia/low blood sugar -- Addison's Disease, Hashimoto's, Type 1 diabetes
_____ High blood sugar- Cushing's Disease, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Type 1 diabetes

Source:

Fairweather, DeLisa  and Rose, Noel. "Women and Autoimmune Diseases." Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Journal. International Conference on Women and Infectious Diseases (ICWID). Volume 10, Number 11—November 2004 

MedlinePlus/U.S. National Library of Medicine, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health "Autoimmune Diseases." https://medlineplus.gov/autoimmunediseases.html Accessed October 26, 2016. 

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