The immune system generates antibodies that protect us from antigens (i.e. toxins, cancer cells, viruses, bacteria). Once the immune system did not recognize the good substance from bad, it will attack itself and destroy healthy body tissues, known as autoimmune disease.  It also refers to varied group of illnesses that involve almost every human organ system. When the immune system becomes misdirected, it attacks the organs it was designed to protect.

Of 50 million Americans living and coping with autoimmune disease, more than 75 percent of women are affected by this condition.

Medical experts agree that more women suffered from this condition but they are not getting the appropriate diagnosis.

Autoimmunity in Women
The sad fact is autoimmune diseases affect women three times more than men. Some diseases under this category have higher incidence in women. This category of disease has been cited in the top ten leading causes of all deaths among American women age 65 and younger. In addition, these diseases represent the fourth largest cause of disability among women in the United States.

Despite women’s enhanced immune system than men, they are susceptible to autoimmune diseases.

Women who have this autoimmune condition have suffered from a lack of focus and a scattered research approach. In fact, autoimmunity is known to have genetic basis but it affects women in the family as different autoimmune diseases – your mother may have lupus; her daughter has juvenile diabetes; and her grandmother has rheumatoid arthritis.

Various ethnic groups are more prone to certain autoimmune disorders. For instance, lupus is two to three times more prominent in African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American women than Caucasian women are. Nine out of 10 people who suffered from lupus are women.

What autoimmune diseases that affect women and what are their symptoms? Armed yourself with the proper information about autoimmune diseases by learning the most common autoimmune diseases and their symptoms that affect many women.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Female: Male ratio: 10:1

This disease causes the thyroid not to enough thyroid hormone.  Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, muscle aches and stiff joints, facial swelling and constipation.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or Lupus
Female: Male ratio: 9:1

This chronic disease may affect any part of the body, but it can damage the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, nervous system, blood and skin.  Symptoms include fever, weight loss, hair loss, mouth sores, fatigue, “butterfly” rash across the nose and cheeks, rashes on other parts of the body, painful or swollen joints, muscle pain, sensitivity to the sun, chest pain,  headache, dizziness, seizure, memory problem or change in behaviour.

Sjorgen’s Syndrome
Female: Male ration: 9:1

This disease of the immune system targets the glands that make moisture such as tears and saliva. Symptoms include dry eyes, dryness of the mouth that can cause sores, trouble swallowing, loss of sense of taste, severe dental cavities, hoarse voice, fatigue, joint swelling or pain, swollen glands, and cloudy eyes.

Antiphospholipid Syndrome-Secondary
Female: male ratio: 9:1

This disease occurs when you have systemic lupus erythematosus or another autoimmune disorder, certain infections or have taken certain medication.

Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
Female : male ratio: 9:1

When you have this condition, the immune system destroys the liver’s bile ducts. Bile is a substance made in the liver. It travels through the bile ducts to help with digestion, When they are destroyed, the bile builds up in the liver and hurts it. The damage causes the liver to harden and scar, and eventually stop working.  Symptoms include fatigue, itchy skin, dry eye and mouth, as well as yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.

Autoimmune Hepatitis
Female: Male ratio: 8:1

This disease occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the liver cells. This can lead to scarring and hardening of the liver and possibly liver failure. Symptoms include fatigue, enlarged liver, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, itchy skin, joint pain, and stomach upset or pain.

Graves’ Disease
Female: Male ratio: 7:1

This disease causes the thyroid to overproduce thyroid hormone. Symptoms are insomnia, irritability, weight loss, heat sensitivity, sweating, fine brittle hair, muscle weakness, light menstrual periods, bulging eyes, and shaky hands.  In some cases, it does not manifest any symptoms at all.

Scleroderma
Female: Male ratio: 3:1

This disease causes abnormal growth of connective tissue in the skin and blood vessels. Symptoms are as follows:

  • Fingers and toes that turn white, red, or blue in response to heat and cold
  • Pain, stiffness, and swelling of fingers and joints
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Skin that looks shiny on the hands and forearm
  • Tight and mask-like facial skin
  • Sores on the fingers or toes
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Shortness of breath

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Female: Male ratio: 2.5: 1

This disease of the immune system attacks the lining of the joints throughout the body. The symptoms include painful, stiff, swollen and deformed joints and reduced movement and function.  Sufferers of RA also experience fatigue, fever, weight loss, eye inflammation, lung disease, and lumps of tissue under the skin, often the elbows.

Autoimmune or Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)
Female: Male ratio: 2:1

This disease of the immune system destroys blood platelets that are needed for blood clotting. Symptoms are very heavy menstrual period, tiny purple or red dots on the skin that might look like a rash, easy bruising and nose or mouth bleed.

Multiple Sclerosis
Female: Male ratio: 2:1

This disease occurs when the immune system damages the myelin, the protective covering of the nerves in the brain and the nervous system.  This damages the brain and the spinal cord; thus, affecting the communication of the brain and the body. Symptoms are weakness and trouble with coordination, balance and speaking and walking, paralysis, tremors, numbness and tingling feeling in arms, legs, hands and feet. Symptoms vary because the location and extent of each attack vary. It may be disabling for some people as they may need constant assistance while some can still live a normal life despite the disease.

Myasthenia Gravis
Female: Male ratio: 2:1

This disease of the immune system attacks the nerves and muscles throughout the body. The symptoms include double vision, trouble keeping a steady gaze, and drooping eyelids. Trouble swallowing, with frequent gagging or choking, weakness or paralysis, muscles that work better after rest, drooping head, trouble climbing the stairs or lifting things, trouble talking.

Antiphospholipid Syndrome- Primary
Female: Male ratio: 2:1

The disease causes problems in the inner lining of blood vessels, resulting in blood clots in the arteries or veins. Manifested symptoms include blood clots in veins or arteries, multiple miscarriage, as well as lacy, net-like red rash on the wrists and knees.

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