Your first symptoms of an autoimmune disease may be general, such as fatigue, low-grade fever, and difficulty concentrating, making autoimmune diseases difficult to diagnose at first. You also may feel depressed and consult a doctor for that.
According to Mary J. Shomon, author of the book Living Well With Autoimmune Disease: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You ... That You Need to Know, what ensues after registering these complaints may be an odyssey to pinpoint which of the almost 60 different autoimmune disorders you might have, all of which affect the body differently.
By Meryl Davids Landau
When you were in your 20s and 30s, you probably ignored random aches or other minor physical annoyances, and they usually went away. But now those symptoms can come back — often with a different cause, and calling for more serious attention.
That such different-seeming diseases as psoriasis and diabetes could stem from a common cause actually is a relatively new notion, according to Noel R. Rose, MD, PhD, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Back in the early days of the last century, he says, the idea took hold that if the immune system were to benefit us, it would have to be warding off foreign invaders from outside the body.
Now, scientists know that the immune system is a set of actions and reactions that can be triggered by a number of things besides an invading germ, virus, or bacteria. One thing that puts you at risk for being attacked by your own immune system is your genetics, says Rose. In other words, if your parents have a predisposition to autoimmune disease, you may, too. "And it's an overlapping inheritance," Rose says. "If you have one autoimmune disease, you may have more -- and you may have different ones than your parent did (or your siblings do)."