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Top 5 Most Common Autoimmune Diseases That Affect Women

Dr Auto Immune
November 30, 2022

As if women don’t already go through enough between having a monthly menstrual cycle, experiencing childbirth and going through menopause later in life, now recent studies estimate that about 80% of all patients diagnosed with autoimmune diseases are women. That means it’s important for women to be aware and know what to look out for. That’s why in this article we go over the top 5 most common autoimmune diseases and their symptoms that affect women. Our goal in doing this is to better educate women everywhere so they can seek the care they need and get to the root cause of their symptoms earlier rather than later.

Autoimmune Diseases are often misdiagnosed, so it’s important that if you or someone you know is experiencing an autoimmune disease and/or the symptoms we’re mentioning, that they get the care they need from a functional medicine professional like Dr. Autoimmune.

The Explanation.

There are a multitude of autoimmune diseases (over 100 in fact) that are known to exist that range from mild to severe to intermittent to chronic.

There are many explanations as to why women are more susceptible over men which include: genetics, sex hormones, the X chromosome, microchimerism, environmental factors, diet, viruses and microbiome. Even stress can be a contributing factor.

Top 5 Most Common Autoimmune Diseases That Affect Women

1. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (lupus or SLE)

Nine out of 10 people affected with systemic lupus are women, commonly between ages 15 and 44.

Lupus attacks and damages any part of the body including the joints, skin and/or organs (brain, lungs, kidneys and blood vessels).

Some women experience mild symptoms, while others face serious health risks like kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Experts acknowledge the role of genes, but say that other possible causes include factors like hormones such as estrogen, the environment, certain medicines and viruses.

Some common symptoms to look out for include:

  • red rashes (most often on the face)
  • sun sensitivity
  • muscle and joint pain
  • fever
  • hair loss

2. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS is considered an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord of the central nervous system. The disease affects women more often than men with women being up to three times more likely than men to get MS.

The disease can also cause symptoms specific to women that seem to relate to hormone levels.

The main symptoms that affect women more than men include menstrual problems, pregnancy-related symptoms, and menopause issues.

Some common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Most women first notice the symptoms of MS with blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion and even blindness in one eye.
  • MS can also lead to cognitive problems like difficulties with memory and concentration and can trigger muscle weakness so severe that it can be difficult to walk or stand.
  • At its worst, MS can cause partial or total paralysis.

3. Thyroid Diseases

Women are more prone than men to Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Graves’ disease causes the thyroid to produce an excess of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism). It usually occurs between ages 30 and 50 (but can appear at any age) and appears seven to eight times more frequently in women than in men.

About 30% of people with Graves’ disease will have a condition known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy, which causes bulging, puffy or inflamed eyes and light sensitivity, double vision and eye pain. If left untreated, Graves’ disease can cause serious problems, including thinning bones, osteoporosis, and heart-related problems.

In Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the immune system attacks the thyroid, which often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). It affects about 10 times as many women as men.

It typically occurs in middle-aged women and progresses slowly over time, gradually damaging the thyroid and reducing thyroid hormone levels.

Thyroid symptoms include:

  • being tired for no apparent reason
  • dry skin
  • a pale, puffy face
  • constipation

4. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the lining of various joints throughout the body, resulting in painful, stiff, swollen and deformed joints and muscle weakness.

Female hormones may also play a role in the onset of the disease, which commonly waxes and wanes with periods of flare-ups along with periods of remission.

As many as 75% of those with RA are women who typically develop the condition between ages 30 and 50, younger than when men typically get the disease.

Common symptoms of RA can include:

  • Pain, stiffness, swelling, and tenderness in the joints, back, or muscles.
  • Whole body fatigue, anemia, or malaise (general feeling of discomfort)
  • Lumps or redness on the skin
  • Swelling and/or bump(s) on the fingers
  • A sensation of pins and needles

5. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common condition that causes skin cells to build up more rapidly than they normally would. In turn, these excess cells form red, silvery, patchy and sometimes painful scales.

Symptoms can be mild (like a few spots of dandruff-like scales) to severe (major outbreaks covering large areas of skin) and it can also cause thickened, ridged or pitted nails and sore joints.

Although psoriasis is more prevalent in women than in men, research finds that men’s symptoms are typically more severe.

Some common symptoms to look out for include:

  • A patchy rash that varies widely in how it looks from person to person, ranging from spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions over much of the body.
  • Rashes that vary in color. These tend to be shades of purple with gray scales on darker skin and pink or red with silver scales on light skin.
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed.
  • Itching, burning or soreness.
  • Cyclic rashes that flare for a few weeks or months and then subside.

Common Symptoms Across Autoimmune Diseases

Despite the varying types of autoimmune diseases, many of them share similar symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Skin problems
  • Abdominal pain or digestive issues
  • Recurring fever
  • Swollen glands

Women should seek treatment when they notice new symptoms so they can identify or rule out an autoimmune disease early on.

Dr. Autoimmune

If you or any women in your life suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above without an identified underlying cause, then you should seek the care and medical testing from a functional medicine practitioner like Dr. Ian Hollaman and the Dr. Autoimmune team.

As an experienced functional medicine expert, Dr. Ian Hollaman uses testing and natural methods to assess the numerous factors that can affect your immune system. He looks for potential environmental toxins, lifestyle, stress, diet, medication, allergies, and sleep habits – all to uncover the root cause of your autoimmune disease.

Click here to schedule your appointment with Dr. Autoimmune today! We offer 100% remote care so anyone can heal from anywhere!

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