Autoimmune Diseases: Causes & Symptoms

by Vanya Sharma last updated -

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Autoimmune diseases are characterized by the condition when the body’s immune defense mechanism erroneously works against itself and tends to destroy its own healthy cells and tissues. Basically, these diseases crop up as a result of the inept response of the body against the components usually present inside the body.

More than 80 different kinds of immune diseases such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, Grave’s diseases, diabetes, multiple sclerosis have been recognized with its severity spanning from mild discomfort to fatal disabilities depending upon the part of the body which is affected and to what extent. Autoimmune diseases may lead to abnormal growth or inappropriate functioning of organs or it may damage multiple tissues and organs including skin, muscles, red blood cells, thyroid glands, and connective tissues.

Autoimmune diseases may be classified into two categories: organ-specific and non-organ specific. In organ-specific diseases, a particular organ of the body may be affected while; in non-organ specific many different organs may be impacted. This could be due to the malfunctioning of a particular tissue in different parts of the body such as a confused immune system against blood may result in pernicious anemia, autoimmune thrombocytopenia while, faulty immune reaction against blood vessels may cause Behcet’s disease, Temporal arteritis and immune malfunctioning against endocrine system may cause Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis to name a few.

A 2D illustration of autoimmune disease on an off white background

Causes of Autoimmune Diseases

Immune System Malfunction

In a healthy individual, T lymphocytes i.e. the immune system cells shield the body from the detrimental components also known as antigens. The defense mechanism triggers the production of antibodies to fight against a range of such antigens including bacteria, virus, cancer cells and other toxins from the environment. The immune system of the patients suffering from autoimmune diseases loses the ability to figure out the difference between the harmful and healthy body cells. As a result, it begins to make antibodies to destroy normal and healthy body tissues as well. These antibodies are also called autoantibodies.

A simple way to understand this is, in allergic reactions the immune system works against any foreign substances attacking the body and in autoimmune diseases, the immune system counters the functioning of body’s own healthy body tissues. The exact reason behind the occurrence of such diseases is still unidentified. Various theories suggest the role of certain microorganisms or medications which may prompt these amendments in the body. Other major causes of autoimmune disorders include:

Genetic Factor

The scientific findings also suspect some genetic intervention which may enhance the susceptibility to developing autoimmune diseases in some individuals and make them prone to such changes in the immune system. That infers that multiple members of the same family may suffer from a particular disease possibly due to a specific gene that may influence and predisposes the members to it. Furthermore, individuals in the same family may inherit the same set of abnormal genes and yet develop different autoimmune diseases.


For an unknown reason, women are more prone to developing autoimmune disorders as compared to men.

General Infection

Certain autoimmune diseases may be prompted as a consequence of particular infections caused in the body.


Autoimmune disorders may have an enhanced risk of developing during reproductive age. They also appear to be influenced positively or negatively by the certain phases such as menopause, pregnancy, and childbirth which involve changes in the hormonal levels.

Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases

Most of the autoimmune diseases have similar symptoms and yet affect different parts of the body. It may also vary from person to person depending upon the disorder and position where the immune system is responding peculiarly. Indications that commonly arise with the autoimmune disorder include

General Body Fatigue

This is probably the most common symptom of autoimmune diseases. An individual may feel extreme tiredness despite enough rest and normal level of physical activity.


Raised body temperature for the prolonged duration is another indicator of autoimmune disorders.


Swelling and pain in some parts of the body such as joints in case of arthritis, skin, and heart in case of lupus may also signify the occurrence of autoimmune diseases.

Apart from this, general feeling of illness and discomfort also known as malaise, enhanced vulnerability to infections, seizures, excessive weight loss, hair loss, palpitations, vertigo, tingling in hands and feet may also be the signs of developing autoimmune diseases. Protection Status
About the Author

Vanya Sharma handles the medical expert collaboration for Organic Facts. She is also responsible for the website’s monthly newsletter and website content and contributes to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube regularly. A writer at heart, she joined the website while she was still pursuing her English Literature degree from IGNOU, Delhi, India. Vanya has completed the “Introduction to Food and Health” certificate program from Stanford University, US. She aims to bring unbiased and helpful information to all those seeking to make their health and lifestyle a priority.

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