Autoimmune Diseases

What are Autoimmune Diseases?

A normal immune system protects the body from disease and infection. With an autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system begins attacking its own organs, tissues, and cells. There are over 100 known autoimmune diseases and they can affect nearly every organ in the body, as well as many tissues. Below are common autoimmune diseases based on the area of the body they affect:

Muscles and Joints:

Digestive Tract:

  • Celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis


  • Dermatomyositis
  • Psoriasis

Endocrine System:

  • Hashimoto’s
  • Graves’ disease

Nervous System:


Autoimmune disorders are more common in women than men, and about 1 in 15 people have an autoimmune disease.

What are the Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases?

Symptoms will vary based on what part of the body is impacted, but common symptoms include pain, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, nausea, malaise, and rashes.

What Causes Autoimmune Diseases?

The exact cause of autoimmune diseases is unknown, but factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Certain medications
  • Having one autoimmune disease already
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Infections
  • Gender (78% of people who have autoimmune diseases are women)
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

How are Autoimmune Diseases Diagnosed?

Autoimmune disorders often have symptoms that are similar to other diseases, or with each other, so diagnosis can be difficult. Treating providers will generally look at symptoms and health history, and may perform blood tests to look for markers that are associated with certain autoimmune diseases. Tests that may be run include:

  • Antinuclear antibody test (ANA)
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Comprehensive metabolic panel
  • Urinalysis

What is the Treatment for Autoimmune Diseases?

Autoimmune disorders do not have a cure, so the focus of treatment is on managing symptoms. Types of treatment include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Pain killers
  • Plasma injections
  • Corticosteroids
  • Depression and anxiety medications
  • Insulin injections
  • Medications to treat rashes
  • Intravenous immune globulin
  • Immunosuppressive medications
  • Physical therapy

Autoimmune diseases can interfere with an individual’s ability to work or carry out daily tasks. If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and are worried that it may be impeding your ability to continue to safely practice on patients, you should speak with an experienced disability insurance attorney.

These posts are for informative purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with and diagnosis by a medical professional. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above and have yet to consult with a doctor, do not use this resource to self-diagnose. Please contact your doctor immediately and schedule an appointment to be evaluated for your symptoms.


Cleveland Clinic

Mount Sinai

National Institute of Health


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