Like millions of Americans, you may be experiencing a variety of chronic or remitting physical symptoms and wondering if you may have a particular condition (and how to treat it). Whether or not it’s found to be that you have an autoimmune disease, achieving a diagnosis can be difficult. The reality is many symptoms are often very similar across different conditions – including autoimmune diseases.
Autoimmune Disease Symptoms Commonly Overlap Diagnoses
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, there are estimated to be over 80 diseases in the autoimmune category. While each autoimmune disease has an autoimmune symptom list unique to its diagnosis, there are a surprisingly large number of symptoms that overlap between diagnoses and even among the undiagnosed. These autoimmune symptoms range in severity and type and can often be coupled together.
Diagnosing an Autoimmune Disease
Diagnosing an autoimmune disease can take time and patience. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), it takes an average of four different doctors over four years before a diagnosis is made. Keeping note of your symptoms and presenting them to your care provider can be very helpful – even if you think the symptoms are unrelated to one another.
When considering a possible autoimmune disease diagnosis, physicians will explore a patient’s health history, genetic background, imaging, and blood test results. These factors, combined with detailed documentation of potential autoimmune disease symptoms and their severity, will assist a doctor in reaching a conclusion.
Once the immune system is compromised, it is not surprising to experience multiple autoimmune disease symptoms pertaining to your particular condition. Below are some of the most common autoimmune disease symptoms to look out for regardless of where you are on your diagnosis journey.
The 7 Most Common Symptoms for an Autoimmune Disease Diagnosis1. Fatigue
Fatigue is among the most common autoimmune disease symptom across all autoimmune diagnoses. Though we have all experienced being tired, fatigue from autoimmunity is much more prominent and persistent. Fatigue as a symptom of autoimmunity can feel like a weakness, exhaustion, or the feeling that the world's weight is on your shoulders. This fatigue can be felt regardless of if you had a restful night’s sleep or are practicing good sleep hygiene. For example, you might wake from a long sleep and still feel too tired to complete basic household tasks. If you haven’t received an autoimmune diagnosis, chronic fatigue can be a warning sign. Seek help if you notice changes like these in your energy levels.2. Joint Pain
An overactive immune system can attack the musculoskeletal system. The result may be the autoimmune disease symptoms of joint pain, discomfort, swelling, stiffness, and limited mobility and range of motion. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and ankylosing spondylitis are among the autoimmune diseases with joint pain as a common symptom.
3. Digestive Issues
Over two-thirds of the immune system is formed in the digestive tract. This can mean that digestive imbalances can occur when the immune system is in overdrive, causing stomach upset. Nausea, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn are common autoimmune disease symptoms. Although having one of these symptoms on its own may not warrant an autoimmune disease diagnosis, it’s usually a piece of the puzzle. In fact, there is a whole subcategory of autoimmune diseases that primarily affect the gut known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Some of the most common are Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis.
4. Skin Irritation
Poor skin health can be a manifestation of what’s happening within our bodies. So, when the immune system is experiencing imbalances and inflammation, it can present as skin irritation for some people. Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis, and Lupus are conditions with skin irritation as common autoimmune disease symptoms. Dermatitis, eczema, and hives can also be strong indicators when other common autoimmune disease symptoms are present.
When a person has an autoimmune disease, swelling can present in areas throughout the body; swelling is not only an autoimmune disease symptom felt in the joints. Swelling can commonly be experienced as water retention and puffiness. When the body fights off any foreign invader, it sends out signals to encourage cell repair, showing up as swelling and inflammation under the skin.
Having recurring head pain or migraines can signify that something more severe is going on within the body. Multiple Sclerosis and Myasthenia Gravis have neurological involvement, and head pain and migraines are common symptoms of these autoimmune diseases. Head pain, jaw pain, and migraines can also be symptoms associated with fibromyalgia or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).7. Flares
One of the characteristics of autoimmunity is symptoms coming and going seemingly without warning. You may find that you are well for some time, and all of a sudden – for days, weeks, or months – a bunch of symptoms become persistent. Identifying and removing the triggers behind the common autoimmune disease symptoms can reduce flares.
Maybe you or someone you know has been experiencing some combination of these common autoimmune disease symptoms. It may be worth additional exploration to discover any potential immune imbalances or autoimmune conditions within your body. Speak with your health care provider or reach out to Mymee to begin to understand the root cause behind your potential autoimmune disease symptoms.