Seemingly vague and innocuous symptoms like fatigue, headaches, low-grade fevers, aches and pains, and more might not be things that normally set off any alarm bells in your mind (or you doctor's mind): maybe you're overworked and stressed, maybe you caught a virus, maybe you pushed too hard during a recent workout. But these symptoms can actually be signs of an autoimmune disease. Many autoimmune diseases are notoriously difficult to diagnose specifically because of the vague symptoms — but quality-of-life-altering — symptoms. These sneaky and subtle signs of an autoimmune disease you have to watch out for might not scream "rheumatoid arthritis," "lupus," or "celiac disease," but these conditions can have serious impacts on your health and general quality of life, so you probably shouldn't simply ignore them.
In the case of autoimmune diseases and disorders, as WebMD noted, your body's immune system "attacks" the other systems and tissues within your own body. There are a number of diseases that fall under this category, as well a ton of different potential symptoms depending on which you actually have. Autoimmune diseases and disorders might be caused by a variety of different factors, from the environment to your genes, lifestyle, and beyond. And women are more likely to be affected by autoimmune diseases, as Everyday Health reported.
In order to talk to your doctor about if your symptoms might be an autoimmune disease, you need to have some sort of idea of what signs and symptoms you need to keep an eye out for. Treatments can sometimes vary based on the condition, but recognizing some of the sneakier symptoms is a good place to start.
1. Chronic Hives
Hives can be alarming if you never really get them, but if breaking out in hives is a more regular occurrence for you, you might not be quite so concerned. That being said, there seems to be a link between chronic hives and some autoimmune diseases. Allergist Dr. Miriam Anand, MD, told Everyday Health in a different article that experts aren't sure whether the autoimmune diseases cause the hives or if your likeliness of experiencing an autoimmune response means you're more likely to break out into hives too.
Fatigue is a hallmark of many autoimmune conditions and it's often really severe. An article from Cleveland Clinic noted that fatigue is a common symptom of lupus, an autoimmune disease that can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, and more.
3. A Rash
You might think that your celiac disease symptoms would be solely related to your gut, but that's actually not always the case. Reader's Digest noted that some people who have celiac disease have a rash called dermatitis herpetiformis, a rash that crops up on your scalp, back, knees, elbows, or butt. Not only that, but as the previously-mentioned post from the Cleveland Clinic noted, a "butterfly-shaped rash" on your face can be a sign of lupus.
4. Hair Loss
Hair loss can be caused by a number of different things, including serious stress, but it can also potentially be a sign of an autoimmune disease. Dr. Delphine Lee, MD, PhD, a dermatologist, told Reader's Digest in another article that hair loss is another potential symptom of lupus and can be — understandably — quite upsetting for those dealing with it.
Headaches, too, can be caused by a whole variety of things, from dehydration to stress, changes in weather, and more. Health reported that some people with celiac disease also experience headaches as one of their non-GI system-related symptoms.
You might not think of dizziness as a typical symptom of an autoimmune disease, but, as Prevention reported, dizziness can be one of those vague symptoms that a number of autoimmune disease patients experience. If you're experiencing more frequent dizzy spells, as well as other symptoms, especially if the symptoms linger, you might want to broach the subject of autoimmune disorders with your doctor.
7. Unexplained Weight Loss
If you've changed your diet or upped your exercise regime lately, you probably don't have to worry about a bit of weight loss, but if you're losing weight for seemingly no reason at all, it could be a sign that there's something bigger going on. The previously-mentioned article from Prevention noted that unexplained weight loss can be one symptom of rheumatoid arthritis, along with a loss of appetite. If you're losing weight, you might want to reflect on whether or not there's a clear reason for it.
8. Coordination Issues
As the previously-mentioned article from WebMD noted, coordination issues can also be a symptom of some autoimmune diseases. Multiple sclerosis patients, for instance, often experience a loss in coordination and increased risk of tripping, falling, or dropping things.
9. Dry Skin
You've probably never considered that your dry skin might be a sign of anything more serious than, well, dry skin, but it actually could potentially be a sign of an autoimmune disease. In the aforementioned article, Prevention reported that dry skin and nails can be a symptom of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Count Gigi Hadid among the people who have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which affects the thyroid.
Along with fatigue and other symptoms, weakness is a potential sign of many autoimmune conditions. The aforementioned article from WebMD noted that multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Graves' disease, myasthenia gravis, and more can all include body weakness.
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms and they don't seem to be going away or you have several of them in combination, it might be worth talking to your doctor about if it could potentially be an autoimmune disorder. The sooner you receive a diagnosis, the sooner that treatment can begin.
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