February 15, 2021 | Sara Shoukat Ali



Your immune system protects your body from foreign invaders such as viruses, bacteria, etc by attacking them. If your immune system mistakenly attacks your body cells or tissues instead of germs it results in serious complications known as autoimmune disorders. The cause of these complications is not known yet. Different researches are going on to understand its causative factors. These complications lead to various diseases such as diabetes mellitus type I, lupus, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory diseases, Graves’ diseases, etc. In the United States, about 20 million people are affected by autoimmune diseases.

What are the signs of autoimmune disorders?

There are some signs that are caused by autoimmune diseases and these symptoms vary from person to person or some share similar symptoms:

v  Fatigue

v  Skin problems

v  Swollen glands

v  Joint swelling and pain

v  Abdominal pain

v  Digestive problems

v  Hair loss

v  Achy muscle

v  Low-grade fever

v  Numbness and tingling in limbs

Which Risk factors result in autoimmune disorders?

Researchers are trying to find out the real cause of autoimmune disorders. Some of the following risk factors increase the development of these disorders:

v  Genetics

Some of the diseases such as lupus and multiple sclerosis run into families. The individual are more likely to have these diseases that close relatives have already developed these disorders.

v  Weight

Overweight or being obese raises the risk of rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis. Over weight put more stress on body tissues that result in inflames tissues.

v  Smoking

Certain researches say smoking is one of the reason of getting autoimmune diseases i.e. lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and hyperthyroidism.

v  Certain medications

Some researchers find out that some medicines like certain blood pressure medicines or some antibiotics may cause some autoimmune diseases.

Which complications can be produced by autoimmune disorders?

Some common autoimmune diseases are discussed following that are more likely to find out in people:

v  Type 1 diabetes

When immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing pancreatic cells which result into type 1 diabetes. Due to this reason, sugar level in the blood rises and leads to complications in the body.

v  Multiple sclerosis (MS)

It results due to damage of myelin sheath (protective layer) of nerve cells attacked by body own immune cells. In MS central nervous system cannot able to coordinate with rest of the body normally.

v  Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

When immune system attacks the joint tissues and causes joint pain, redness, swelling and stiffness of joint. It affects the individuals in early 30s.

v  Psoriasis/ psoriatic arthritis

Skin cells do not multiply normally instead divide too quickly result into psoriasis. These additional skin cells cause inflamed red patches. About 30 % or more of it individuals suffer pain, swelling and stiffness in their joints.

v  Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

It’s actually systematic form in which immune system attacks multiple organs such as skin, joints, heart, kidney and brain.  It includes the common symptoms like skin rashes, joint pain and fatigue

v  Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)

Immune cells attack the lining of intestine or gastrointestinal track and lead to complications. It includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

v  Addison’s disease

Immune system damages the adrenal gland cells. Damaged adrenal gland is not able to produce cortisol and aldesterone normally which results in to imbalance between the sodium potassium ions and abnormal storage of carbohydrates in body. Symptoms include weight loss, fatigue, weakness and low blood sugar.

v  Graves’ diseases

It results due to excess secretion of thyroid hormone due to abnormal thyroid gland. This excessive hormone causes various complications especially metabolic activities in body.

v  Other disorders

Some of the other disorders include i.e. Sjögren’s syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Myasthenia gravis, Pernicious anemia and Celiac disease etc.

How autoimmune disorders can be diagnosed?


No single test is enough for diagnosis. it includes combination of different tests prescribed by your doctor.


v  Antinuclear antibody test (ANA): it detects abnormal proteins that results by the attack of immune cells to its own body tissues.

v  Rheumatoid Factor (RF): It’s like ANA, uses to detect abnormal protein which forms by own immune cells during attacking of    it to body cells.

v  Complete blood count (CBC): it measures size, numbers and maturity of total blood cells like RBCs, WBCs and platelets and amount of hemoglobin in specific amount blood. It specifically includes WBCs test and hematocrit. 

v  C-reactive protein: it measures the specific protein produced by liver cells. In autoimmune disorder this protein becomes abnormally high in blood.

v  Complement: it measures the complement that is group of protein produce by immune system. Low level of complements results due to autoimmune disorders.

v  Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): it measures how quickly red blood cells fall to the bottom of test tube. When it falls to quickly it is the indication of inflammation in the body.

v  Anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibody: it is a kind of blood test that may be suggested with RF test to detect the certain kind of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

v  Some imaging test such as Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound also suggested by doctors.

What is the treatment of autoimmune diseases?

No exact cause is known so some therapies are prescribed by doctors to control autoimmune diseases:

v  Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

v  Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs),

v  Biologics( new class of DMARDs)

v  Corticosteroids

v  Intravenous immunoglobulin

v  Plasmapheresis

v  Surgery

These therapies vary from person to person and only your doctor can suggest which type of therapy you needed. 


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Sara Shoukat Ali

MS in molecular biology & currently working in Queen Mary College as a lecturer