Invigorate Answer: Your body can’t differentiate good from bad cells and attacks itself causing all sorts of painful symptoms.
Medical Answer: The Autoimmune Association defines autoimmunity as a function of the immune system that’s designed to protect the body. It does this by responding to invading microorganisms, like viruses or bacteria, by producing antibodies or sensitized lymphocytes (types of white blood cells). Under normal conditions, an immune response cannot be triggered against the cells of one’s own body. In certain cases, however, immune cells make a mistake and attack the very cells that they are meant to protect. This can lead to a variety of autoimmune diseases. They encompass a broad category of related diseases in which the person’s immune system attacks his or her own tissue.
Invigorate Answer: The exact causes of autoimmune diseases are unknown. However, mounting evidence suggests lifestyle and environmental factors play a role in autoimmunity. The good news, though, is that it means we have more control over our health and achieving long-term remission than we’ve previously understood.
“Next to improved hygiene and a gross reduction of infections, changes in dietary habits are one of the most evident Western lifestyle factors potentially associated with the increase in autoimmune diseases.” (Source)
Medical Answer: What causes autoimmune diseases is not entirely clear. First, certain viruses and smoking are thought to be involved in activating the immune system and contributing to the development of autoimmune diseases. Second, a person’s genetic makeup increases their risk of developing autoimmune disease. For example, people with a gene called HLA-DR4 have an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, we have learned through much research that genetics are only part of the story. It typically takes both the genetic makeup and environmental exposures together to develop an autoimmune (self-immune) state. (Source)
Risk Factors include, “While many people develop autoimmune disease without any identifiable cause, risk factors include being a woman of childbearing age, having a family history of autoimmune disease, being exposed to certain environmental irritants and being of certain races/ethnic backgrounds.” (Source, Source)
Invigorate Answer: We’ve seen anywhere from 80-100 autoimmune diseases and counting. You’ll quickly learn if you have one autoimmune disease you’re more susceptible to having two or more. That’s why we focus on addressing disease activity at its core through holistic health and lifestyle changes.
Medical Answer: According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are over 100 known autoimmune diseases. Some of the most common ones include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Autoimmune diseases can affect many types of tissues and nearly any organ in your body.
They may cause a variety of symptoms including pain, tiredness (fatigue), rashes, nausea, headaches, dizziness and more. Specific symptoms depend on the exact disease.
Invigorate Answer: Many of our community members have more than one autoimmune disease diagnosis. When autoimmunity is triggered, symptoms can manifest in many different ways. How those symptoms show up determines the autoimmune diagnosis. Whether you have one or five autoimmune diseases, addressing lifestyle and environmental factors can improve symptoms greatly.
Medical Answer: “Rainbow spectrum” or “Constellations” of diseases are terms rheumatologists have used to describe the overlapping affects of autoimmune disease triggers.
Many of the affected genes overlap between diseases. Researchers believe that a malfunctioning thymus, which is essential for fighting pathogens throughout the body, may cause some people to have multiple diseases. (Source)
Symptoms vary depending on the specific autoimmune disease and severity. Some common symptoms include:
- Joint pain and swelling
- Skin problems
- Abdominal pain or digestive issues
- Recurring fever
- Swollen glands
Invigorate Answer: Start with your primary care physician and get a referral to a rheumatologist. Clinics with research hospitals tend to produce the most efficient diagnosis and care in our personal experiences. Your rheumatologist is the primary care physician in charge of managing your autoimmune disorder.
Medical Answer: According to Autoimmune Institute, medical specialists typically for autoimmune diseases:
- Dermatologists – alopecia areata, Behçet’s disease, dermatomyositis, linear IgA disease, pemphigus, pemphigoid, psoriasis, scleroderma, vitiligo
- Endocrinologists – autoimmune Addison’s disease, autoimmune hypophysitis, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, testicular autoimmunity, type 1 diabetes, Schmidt (polyendocrine) syndrome
- Gastroenterologists – autoimmune gastritis, autoimmune gastrointestinal dysmotility, autoimmune hepatitis, autoimmune pancreatitis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, primary biliary cholangitis/cirrhosis, ulcerative colitis
- Immunologists – various immunological conditions and autoinflammatory syndromes
- Internists – various chronic conditions
- Neurologists – acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, autoimmune encephalitis, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, Guillain-Barré syndrome, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, neuromyelitis optica
- Rheumatologists – ankylosing spondylitis, antiphospholipid syndrome, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, lupus, psoriatic arthritis, Raynaud’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, Sjӧgren’s syndrome, Still’s disease, vasculitis
Holistic doctors who often identify and treat patients with autoimmune disease or other chronic, hard-to-treat conditions:
- Functional medicine doctors – Personalized, whole body medicine with a focus on finding root causes of disease. Credentials: may be a doctor of medicine (MD)
- Integrative medicine doctors – Whole body approaches for optimal health. Inclusive of all healing modalities, including modern Western medicine and holistic therapies. Credentials: may be a doctor of medicine (MD)
- Naturopathic doctors – Holistic preventive care and self-healing, informed by a combination of traditional healing methods and current research. Credentials: doctor of naturopathic medicine (ND or NMD)
- Osteopaths – Preventive and whole body care through hands-on manipulation of the musculoskeletal system. Credentials: doctor of osteopathy (DO)
Invigorate Answer: There’s no single test to determine whether you have an autoimmune disease. Rather it’s more of a process of elimination using several tests that indicate potential autoimmune disease activity.
Medical Answer: MedlinePlus reports that doctors often have a hard time diagnosing autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease cannot usually be detected by a specific test. And the symptoms can be confusing. That’s because many autoimmune diseases have similar symptoms. And some symptoms, such as muscle aches, are common in many other illnesses. So it can take a long time and some visits to different types of doctors to get a diagnosis.
Invigorate Answer: While we support conventional western medicine to suppress flare symptoms and manage pain short-term, we believe in addressing the root causes of autoimmune disease triggers to achieve our ultimate goal of remission. Lifestyle factors such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress all play a larger role in our health than we’ve previously understood.
When people think about holistic health care, they often think about mind-body medicine like meditation or yoga. While these treatments have proven effective for many people dealing with autoimmune disorders, there are other approaches that can be helpful as well. Invigorate provides those resources all in one place [link to pillar page].
Medical Answer: The treatment depends on the disease, says MedlinePlus. In most cases, the goal of treatment is to suppress (slow down) your immune system, and ease swelling, redness, and pain from inflammation. Your doctor may give you corticosteroids or other medicines to help you feel better. For some diseases, you may need treatment for the rest of your life.
Invigorate Answer: In the traditional sense, there is no cure for autoimmune diseases. However, it is possible to eliminate evidence of disease through the functional medicine approach. Going through a functional medicine provider is typically expensive and you have to be prepared to completely overhaul your lifestyle, which is often too labor-intensive for people to take on at once.
Medical Answer: Harvard Health explains that autoimmune diseases are a mysterious set of conditions that vary in severity from merely annoying to life-threatening. Research is ongoing and has provided remarkable advances in recent years; while effective therapies are available for most of these conditions, cures are not.
Autoimmune diseases can pose serious health risks, and in some cases, they can be life-threatening. While not all autoimmune diseases directly result in fatality, certain complications and severe forms of these diseases can lead to serious health consequences[\[1\]](https://bestdoctor.com/blog/list-of-fatal-autoimmune-diseases/)[\[2\]](https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/slideshows/autoimmune-diseases-that-can-be-fatal).
Some autoimmune diseases that have the potential to be fatal include:
1. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): SLE is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect various organs and systems in the body. In severe cases, it can lead to organ failure or major complications, which may be life-threatening[\[1\]](https://bestdoctor.com/blog/list-of-fatal-autoimmune-diseases/).
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): RA is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects the joints. Although it typically does not directly result in death, untreated or severe RA can lead to complications such as cardiovascular disease, which can be life-threatening[\[1\]](https://bestdoctor.com/blog/list-of-fatal-autoimmune-diseases/).
3. Multiple Sclerosis (MS): MS is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Although it is not typically fatal, complications related to advanced stages of the disease, such as respiratory or cardiovascular problems, can have serious implications for individuals with MS[\[1\]](https://bestdoctor.com/blog/list-of-fatal-autoimmune-diseases/).
It is essential to note that with proper medical management, early diagnosis, and appropriate treatment, the prognosis for many individuals with autoimmune diseases can be improved, reducing the risk of fatal outcomes[\[1\]](https://bestdoctor.com/blog/list-of-fatal-autoimmune-diseases/).
It is recommended that individuals with autoimmune diseases regularly consult with healthcare professionals specialized in autoimmune conditions to receive proper medical care, undergo routine monitoring, and effectively manage their symptoms[\[1\]](https://bestdoctor.com/blog/list-of-fatal-autoimmune-diseases/) [\[3\]](https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/autoimmune-diseases).
Please consult with a healthcare professional for personalized information and guidance regarding autoimmune diseases and their potential risks.
1. [List Of Fatal Autoimmune Diseases – When To See A Doctor](https://bestdoctor.com/blog/list-of-fatal-autoimmune-diseases/)
2. [Autoimmune Diseases That Can Be Fatal – U.S. News](https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/slideshows/autoimmune-diseases-that-can-be-fatal)
3. [NIAMS – Autoimmune Diseases](https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/autoimmune-diseases)
Invigorate Answer: Supplements can be beneficial to reduce or even prevent disease activity. However, supplements can have unintended consequences, especially when taken with other medications. We recommend consulting with your doctor before beginning a supplement regimen. The supplemental industry is not regulated by the FDA, and there can be significant differences in quality and efficacy across brands.
Medical Answer: Harvard Health research shows Fish oil and Vitamin D can lower risk of disease activity. Functional medicine practitioners may recommend to incorporate additional supplements for your specific situation, e.g., magnesium, collagen, glutathione.
Invigorate Answer: Autoimmune disease diagnosis are increasing in part due to growing awareness and understanding of systemic diseases, but also, and perhaps more so, because of our country’s health crises.
While there’s still a lot unknown about these diseases, much less a simple solution, we can start to make changes to positively influence our health trajectory.
Medical Answer: Yes, the prevalence of autoimmune diseases is rising with the greatest increases among adolescents, adults 50 and older, males and non-hispanic whites. This is likely due to a combination of factors, including environmental toxins, changes in diet, and increased stress levels.
“The prevalence of autoimmunity is on the rise in the United States. Researchers have found a 44% increase in ANA, the autoantibody (antibodies that target self) in lupus, in the last 25 years, with 41 million people affected.” (Source)