Learning About Autoimmune Disorders

Multiple sclerosis: Symptoms of MS include weakness, trouble with balance and coordination, problems speaking and walking, paralysis, tremors, and numbness in the extremities. There are a number of medications that can help patients manage symptoms, treat flare-ups, modify the course of the MS, and improve function.


Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood. It occurs when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. When your insulin levels are insufficient, your body cannot control your glucose level, which can lead to a number of problems, including kidney failure, vision loss, circulation problems, stroke, and heart disease. Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin, monitoring blood sugar, eating a healthy diet, and staying active.

Lupus: In lupus, antibodies made by the immune system attack the body, resulting in swelling and damaged joints and organs, joint pain, rashes, and sun sensitivity. Lupus treatments vary depending on how severe your disease is, but can include pain relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, and lifestyle changes such as reducing stress, avoiding sun exposure, using sunscreen, and making changes to your diet.

Graves' disease: Graves’ disease is a type of autoimmunity in which the thyroid gland becomes overly active. People who have Graves' disease may have trouble sleeping, irritability, unexplained weight loss, eyes that bulge, sensitivity to heat, muscle weakness, brittle hair, light menstrual periods, and hand shakiness. On the other hand, some people with Graves' disease experience no symptoms at all. A radioactive iodine pill, which destroys overactive thyroid cells, is used to treat Graves’ disease and cures the condition in about 90 percent of patients in just one dose. Ten percent of patients require a second dose, and only a small percentage of those need to have the overactive thyroid surgically removed.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis: This is an inflammation of the thyroid gland that results in hypothyroidism. Hashimoto's thyroiditis occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Although there are sometimes no symptoms, Hashimoto's thyroiditis often results in a goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland, which may be visible as a bulge in the neck), fatigue, weight gain, depression, muscle weakness, cold sensitivity, dry hair and skin, and constipation. There is currently no treatment aimed specifically at Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but hypothyroidism and goiter, if present, can both be treated with hormone replacement therapy to give the body the thyroid hormone that it needs.