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Autoimmune Disorders Center

Autoimmune Disorder Risks

An autoimmune disorder is one in which the body's immune system destroys healthy tissue, instead of harmful antigens. Autoimmune disorders are relatively common; 23.5 million Americans suffer from some form of the medical problem.

Signs and Symptoms

While each autoimmune disorder has different signs and symptoms, many have these four in common: fatigue, low-grade fever, dizziness and general malaise.

There are some autoimmune disorders with a classic and specific set of signs and symptoms:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus: In addition to the common symptoms listed above, lupus also presents with a classic butterfly rash on the face.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): Generalized joint pain, which progresses to joint deformity with a loss of function, is an indication of this disorder. Any joint can be involved but RA usually starts in the fingers.
  • Grave's disease: This disease exhibits an enlarged thyroid gland and is characterized by weight loss, sweating, heat palpitations and intolerance to heat.
  • Multiple sclerosis: Clumsiness is the first symptom of this debilitating disease, which progress to muscle weakness, extreme fatigue and blurred or double vision. This is a progressive disease that often renders the patient being wheelchair bound.

With the medical profession recognizing more than 80 autoimmune disorders, the complete list of signs and symptoms is vast and varied.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors that can predispose a person to developing one or more of the documented autoimmune disorders.

  • Being female raises the risk, especially during childbearing years. Men do suffer from these disorders, as well.
  • Having a family member with a diagnosed autoimmune disorder increases the chances of developing one. The disorders among family members are not always the same.
  • People of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds are more likely to develop an autoimmune disorder than some others.
  • Environmental factors and exposure can cause or worsen some autoimmune disorders. Antigens like bacteria, viruses and fungi, as well as chemicals and poisons influence a person's vulnerability to these disorders.
  • A person who has received a blood transfusion or organ transplant taxes their body's defense system and is more prone to developing an autoimmune disorder.

Negative Effects of Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune disorders are serious, chronic and often very debilitating for the patient. The overall prognosis for patients depends upon the disorder with which they are diagnosed and whether it involves one organ or is systemic in nature.

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