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What is an Autoimmune Disease?

An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue.

  • Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) is a form of encephalitis with an autoimmune reaction and usually occurs days/weeks after a viral infection or vaccination.
  • Addison’s disease – also called adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism, is chronic under-functioning of the adrenal glands and  production of  hormones affecting how the body uses carbohydrates, protein, fat and blood sugar.Symptoms include weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue and low blood pressure.
  • Allergic granulomatosis and angiitis or Churg-Strauss syndrome (CSS) has 3 distinct phases – with symptoms depending on organs involved -Allergic with asthma, sinus pain, headache; Eosinophilic phase with weight loss and sweats; Vasculitic with pain, numbness & weakness in extremities.
  • Alopecia or Alopecia Areata (AA) results in loss of hair on scalp or beard or the skin as the immune system attacks the hair follicles and slows down hair production. It can occur in men, women or children.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis characterized by arthritis, inflammation and stiffness of joints. Usually involves the spine and joints of the neck, back and pelvis.  Also called Strümpell-Marie disease & spondyloarthritis.
  • Autoimmune chronic active hepatitis (CAH), or autoimmune hepatitis, is a disease of the liver usually occuring by itself, but sometimes with other autoimmune diseases e.g. lupus or APL syndrome. Symptoms include joint pain, fatigue and abdominal discomfort.
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia causes the premature destruction of red blood cells fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, dark urine.
  • Autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) symptoms usually include jaundice and sometimes recent onset of diabetes mellitus, weight loss, abdominal pain or itching. A multisystem disorder, it can affect other parts of the body, such as the bile ducts or salivary glands.
  • Autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura destroys platelets in the blood that are needed for prevention and control of bleeding. Symptoms include unexplained bruises or bleeding
  • Autoimmune neutropenia means there are too few neutrophils (white blood cells) to fight infection so the risk of infection rises. Most common in infants. Usually fever symptoms
  • Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease (AIED) causes hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS) is a type of hypercoagulability. Symptoms include thrombosis (blood clots in the deep veins of legs), arterial thrombosis (usually blood clots in the brain), recurrent pregnancy losses, and low platelet counts.
  • Autoimmune Lymphoproliferative Syndrome (ALPS)regulates the death of lymphocytes.


  • Balo disease  is a rare and progressive variant of multiple sclerosis. It usually first appears in adulthood, but childhood cases have also been reported. While multiple sclerosis typically is a disease that waxes and wanes, Balo Disease is different in that it tends to be rapidly progressive.
  • Behcet’s syndrome, with inflammation of blood vessels throughout the body has symptoms of swelling, redness, heat, and pain. Symptoms differ but can include mouth and genital ulcers, eye inflammation and skin problems. It can involve the intestines, heart and central nervous system.
  • Bullus Pemphigoid causes itchy red irregular shaped skin eruptions that result in scarring. Sometimes the mucous membranes are involved.


  • Castleman’s disease  is a rare disorder characterized by non-cancerous (benign) growths (tumors) that may develop in the lymph node tissue throughout the body (i.e., systemic disease). Most often, they occur in the chest, abdomen, and/or neck, but may also be found in the armpit (axilla), pelvis, and pancreas. Usually the growths represent abnormal enlargement of the lymph nodes normally found in these areas.
  • Celiac disease responds to dietary proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley This leads to inflammation of small intestine and can cause diarrhea, constipation, anemia, fatigue, weakness, bone pain, and muscle cramps. 
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome (CSS) or Allergic Granulomatosis Angiitis is inflammation of blood vessels increasing the white blood cells with late onset asthma then weight loss, fever, and night sweats
  • Chronic Inflammatory DemyelinatingPolyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP) causes swelling  and destruction of myelin sheath over the nerves. Symptoms -weakness, paralysis, and/or impairment of movement in arms and legs. Sometimes numbness, tingling, and burning sensations on both sides of the body.
  • Cicatricial pemphigoid (CP) small blisters or erosions on any mucous membrane  including the nose, mouth, eyes (OCP), esophagus, larynx, urethra and anus.
  • Central Nervous System Vasculitis inflames the blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord with symptom’s including headaches. Can have sudden onset or be a waxing and waning condition.
  • Crohn’s Disease  – bowel disease with persistent inflammation of the lining or wall of the gastrointestinal tract.  Major symptoms include abdominal pain and diarrhea.


  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) has itchy bumps and blisters on the scalp, buttocks, elbows and knees of people with coeliac disease.
  • Dermatomyositis dermatomyositis is a progressive connective tissue disorder characterized by inflammatory and degenerative changes of the muscles and skin.
  • Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) in which round red lumps appear on the skin
  • Dressler’s syndrome is a type of pericarditis, inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart (pericardium). Inflammation associated with Dressler’s syndrome is believed to be an immune system response following damage to heart tissue or the pericardium, such as a heart attack, surgery or traumatic injury.


  • Encephalomyelitis inflammation of the brain and spinal cord describing a number of disorders 
  • Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, bowel or the tissue lining your pelvis. Rarely, endometrial tissue may spread beyond your pelvic region.
  • Eosinophilic Fasciitis Eosinophilic fasciitis is a very rare syndrome in which muscle tissue underneath the skin, called fascia, becomes swollen and thick. Rapid swelling can occur in the hands, arms, legs, and feet.
  • Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita (EBA) blisters on the skin
  • Erythema nodosum has red, painful lumps on the legs below the knees.
  • Evans syndrome where an individual’s antibodies attack their own red blood cells and/or platelets. GARD


  • Fibromyalgia is a common syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.


  • Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a complication that can occur after a stem cell or bone marrow transplant in which the newly transplanted donor cells attack the transplant recipient’s body.
  • Graves’ Disease increases the production of thyroid hormone which controls metabolism. Symptoms include nervousness, heat intolerance, diarrhea, sweating, insomnia, and weight loss with increased appetite. 
  • Gullain-Barre syndrome affects the body’s immune system attacking the nervous system and causing a neuromuscular disease with initial symptoms of weakness and tingling starting in legs and rapid progression to paralysis in legs, arms, face and breathing muscles. 


  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis also called autoimmune thyroiditis and chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is a chronic inflammation of the
  • Hypersensitivity Vasculitis (HV) or small vessel vasculitishas red spots usually on forearms and legs may be caused by sensitivity to a drug taken.
  • Hemolytic anemia Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues.
  • Henoch-Schonlein purpura  is a disease that involves purple spots on the skin, joint pain, gastrointestinal problems, and glomerulonephritis (a type of kidney disorder).
  • Herpes gestationis is a rare auto-immune skin blistering disorder that occurs in pregnant women after 13 weeks gestation. It appears with an itchy rash that develops into blisters. It usually recurs in subsequent pregnancies and once triggered tends to occur in women who go on to take oral contraceptive therapy, or rarely during menstruation when periods restart following pregnancy.
  • Hypogammaglobulinemia  is an immune disorder characterized by a reduction in all types of gamma globulins, including antibodies that help fight infection. It may be congenital (present at birth), related to medication; it may be due to a kidney or gastrointestinal condition, cancer or severe burns.


  • Immune-mediated infertility is the inability to conceive within one year of unprotected intercourse, is estimated to affect up to 1 in 6 couples of reproductive age [1]. There are three well-investigated entities in which the immune system may induce infertility:IgA nephropathy Nephropathy is damage, disease, or other problems with the kidney. IgA nephropathy is a kidney disorder in which antibodies called IgA build up in kidney tissue.
    1. Antisperm antibodies (ASA) – antibodies that bind to sperm and may be present in the reproductive tract fluids or blood of either males or females.
    2. Autoimmune premature ovarian failure (aPOF) – the cessation of ovarian function in women before the age of 40, characterized by the development of amenorrhoea, infertility, sex steroid deficiency and elevated gonadotrophin levels.
    3. The antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) – characterized by vascular thrombosis (arterial or venous), and/or pregnancy morbidity in association with medium to high titers of antibodies to certain plasma proteins that are often bound to anionic phospholipids (antiphospholipid antibodies (aPL)).
  • IgG4-related sclerosing disease Autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) is a unique form of pancreatitis in which the pathogenesis is suspected to involve autoimmune mechanisms.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease  Also called colitis, enteritis and ileitis. Refers to chronic, autoimmune, inflammatory diseases of the bowel, mainly ulcerative colitis and Crohn ‘s disease. 
  • Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (Type 1/Juvenile diabetes) attacks the pancreas and usually begins in childhood or young adulthood
  • Isolated vasculitis of the Central nervous system or CNS Vasculitis – inflames the blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord with symptom’s including headaches. Can have sudden onset or be a waxing and waning condition.
  • Isaacs’ Syndrome: Neuromyotonia An Antibody-mediated Potassium Channelopathy with twitching of the muscles, increasing muscle stiffness and increased sweating.


  • Kawasaki disease (KD) is a serious children’s disease with high fever, red eyes, body rash, swollen tongue, sore throat and swollen glands. 


  • Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) causes muscle weakness, usually first in the upper legs and upper arms. The attack interferes with the ability of nerves to send signals to muscles. A progressive syndrome it develops into eye muscles, and those involved in talking, chewing; sometimes dry mouth, constipation, impotence and bladder urgency. 
  • Linear IgA disease is an acquired, autoimmune blistering disease that may present with a clinical pattern of vesicles indistinguishable from dermatitis herpetiformis, or with vesicles and bullae in a bullous pemphigoid-like appearance
  • Lupus (Systemic lupus erythematosus) is a long-term autoimmune disorder that may affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs.
  • Lyme disease, chronic is Lyme disease is caused by spirochetal bacteria from the genus Borrelia. Exposure to the Borrelia bacterium during Lyme disease possibly causes a long-lived and damaging inflammatory response, a form of pathogen-induced autoimmune disease


  • Meniere’s Disease has a group of inner ear symptoms, including tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo (dizziness), and a sensation of fullness or pressure in the ears possibly with hearing loss. Meniere’s Disease Australia
  • Microscopic Polyangiitis (MPA)kidney inflammation, fatigue, purplish bumps spots on skin, nerve damage and fevers. 
  • Mixed connective tissue disease or MCTD causes joint pain, muscle weakness, cardiac, lung and skin manifestations, kidney disease, and dysfunction of the oesophagus 
  • Monoclonal Gammopathy means abnormal levels of a protein have been found in the blood 
  • Myasthenia gravis  fluctuating muscle weakness and fatigue caused by circulating antibodies that block receptors at the neuromuscular junction. Usual involvement of eye muscles, chewing, talking and swallowing.
  • Multiple Sclerosis attacks the effects the central nervous system -brain and spinal cord –  interfering with the nerves system signals and causing neurological symptoms. It can follow an unpredictable course.  You may experience only some of the symptoms and never have others. Symptoms may include numbness, tingling, pain, burning, and visual disturbances, tremor, difficulty walking, lack of coordination & constipation.
  • Multifocal motor neuropathy with Conduction block a progressive muscle disorder that often starts with weakness in the hands.  It usually affects one side of the body differently and affects men more than women.


  • Narcolepsy Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and frequent daytime sleep attacks. In some patients, narcolepsy is linked to reduced amounts of a protein called hypocretin, which is made in the brain. What causes the brain to produce less of this protein is unclear. There is a possibility that narcolepsy is an autoimmune disorder. An autoimmune disorder is when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.
  • Neuromyelitis optica (Devic’s) Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an uncommon disease syndrome of the central nervous system (CNS) that affects the optic nerves and spinal cord.


  • Oophoritis – it is inflammation of ovaries resulting in the destruction of the ovaries and a loss of fertility.
  • Opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome causes unsteady gait, muscle spasms and irregular eye movements. Difficulty speaking may also be involved. Often seen in children less than 2 years old.
  • Optic neuritis – Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve. It may cause sudden, reduced vision in the affected eye.
  • Orchitis is an inflammation of the testis with mild testicular pain or swelling, resulting in infertility.


  • Pemphigus vulgaris causes blister formations in the skin and the mucous membranes and begins with blisters in the mouth and on the scalp   
  • Pemphigus follaceus PF) is a blistering disease. It is milder than Pemphigus Vulgaris. Blisters are mainly on chest, back, face and scalp. Healthy appearing skin  blisters when rubbed.
  • Pemphigoid gestationis (PG) is a rare autoimmune bullous dermatosis of pregnancy. The inflammatory response is manifested by redness, itching and blisters.
  • Pernicious anemia prevents the absorption of B 12 vitamin causing, paleness, weakness and nerve damage. 
  • Paraneoplastic pemphigus (PNP) is the most rare and serious form of pemphigus and is often found in people with cancer. Painful sores of the mouth, lips and oesophagus.
  • Polyarteritis nodosa (PAN) inflames the arteries. Areas affected can include muscles, joints, intestines, nerves, kidneys, and skin. symptoms can include fatigue, weight loss, and fever.
  • Polymyositis/dermatomyositis are neuromuscular diseases. They are sometimes referred to as connective tissue diseases that occur in all ages and both sexes. Limb (proximal) and neck weakness, sometimes with muscle pain. Dermatomyositis has skin rashes on the face and upper chest.  Usually an elevated blood level of CPK.
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica – A Syndrome of moderate to severe pain and stiffness in the shoulders and hips.
  • Primary biliary Cirrhosis (PBC) also called Hanot Syndrome,  is a chronic liver disease, where the body detroys the cells lining the bile ducts in the liver.
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) symptoms are itching, fatigue and yellowing of the eyes or skin.
  • Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes skin redness and irritation. Most people with psoriasis have thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white patches called scales


  • Raynaud’s phenomenon affects the blood vessels in the fingers, toes, ears, and nose with colour changes of the skin (white, blue or red). Often with cold-induced numbness (pins and needles sensation) of the fingers and toes.
  • Reactive Arthritis formerly known as Reiter’s syndrome, has inflammation and pain in the joints, conjunctivitis and urinary symptoms usually after an infection. 
  • Retinopathy causes retinal degeneration with rapid, painless vision loss associated with sensitivity to light. Similar to cancer-associated retinopathy (CAR) but without a detectable underlying cancer. 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that causes stiffness, pain, loss of mobility and inflammation of the joints. It usually affects hands and wrists and sometimes elbows, neck, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet. Other symptoms include fatigue & a sense of not feeling well. 


  • Sarcoidosis is a multisystem disease characterized by small round spots of dead tissue. Sometimes misdiagnosed as tuberculosis.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome affects the tear, salivary, and other moisture-producing glands, thus destroying the glands and their ability to produce moisture. Other organs can be affected such as the lungs, brain, nerves, joints, kidneys, thyroid, and liver.  
  • Systemic necrotizing vasculitis – Necrotizing vasculitis is a rare condition that involves inflammation of the blood vessel walls.
  • Stiff person syndrome or Moersch-Woltmann syndrome involves the central nervous system and causes progressive rigidity or stiffness of the body – affects the voluntary muscles of the neck, shoulders, trunk, arms & legs sometimes with muscle spasms.  
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus long-lasting attack on normal tissue causing varied symptoms of fatigue, fever and pain but almost always with skin rashes, kidney problems and sensitivity to sunlight which worsens the symptoms. 
  • Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) affects connective tissues (skin, ligaments, cartilage and bone), with an overproduction of the protein collagen making the skin thick and hard.


  • Temporal arteritis or giant cell arteritis (GCV) is characterized by vasculitis that causes headaches, vision problems, joint pain, facial pain and fever. It can be localized in the temples or affect the whole body.
  • Takayasu’s arteritis is similar to temporal arteritis but affects young adults, usually 15 to 20 years of age 
  • Thromboangiitis obliterans or Buerger’s disease is an inflammation and clotting of the veins and arteries in the hands and feet causing pain and associated with tobacco use. 
  • Thyroiditis with hypothyroidism is inflammation of the thyroid gland which may be associated with an underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism and in some cases patients have an overactive thyroid gland or hyperthyroidism prior to experiencing hypothyroidism. There are several different kinds of thyroiditis. Although each different type of thyroiditis may cause different symptoms, many times they can be quite similar.
  • Thyroiditis with hyperthyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) is Graves’ disease which increases production of thyroid hormone. Symptoms include nervousness, heat intolerance, diarrhea, sweating, insomnia, and weight loss with increased appetite.
  • Transverse myelitis is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation across both sides of one level, or segment, of the spinal cord. The term myelitis refers to inflammation of the spinal cord; transverse simply describes the position of the inflammation, that is, across the width of the spinal cord. Attacks of inflammation can damage or destroy myelin, the fatty insulating substance that covers nerve cell fibers.
  • Type I autoimmune polyglandular syndrome (PAS)In PAS the immune system attacks the endocrine system -‘Endocrine glands include the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands, the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas, and the ovaries and testes’.  
  • Type II autoimmune polyglandular syndrome  is an autoimmune disorder that affects many hormone-producing (endocrine) glands. This condition is characterized by the presence of Addison’s disease along with autoimmune thyroid disease and/or type 1 diabetes.


  • Vasculitis involves blood vessels in the skin and in the body. Symptoms depend on the type of vasculitis present. It can cause tender lumps on the skin, open sores and high blood pressure
  • Vitiligo  is a skin condition in which there is a loss of color (pigment) from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches that feel like normal skin.


  • Wegener’s granulomatosis  is a rare disorder in which blood vessels become inflamed, making it hard for blood to flow.

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