Lupus is difficult to diagnose
Buckner_Variety/Shutterstock There are many autoimmune diseases, but here are a few you should know about. Famous millennial Selena Gomez has very publicly revealed she has the autoimmune condition lupus. This disease causes inflammation in many different parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, brain, blood vessels, heart, and lungs. The Lupus Foundation of America says 16,000 new cases are reported each year in the U.S., with 1.5 million Americans living with lupus. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms can mimic other diseases and all symptoms aren’t always present, making lupus hard to diagnose. Common signs are a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose, joint pain, fatigue, skin lesions, and headaches. Because lupus affects major organs, it can have life-threatening effects if not controlled with medications such as corticosteroids or immunosuppressants. Find out more silent signs of lupus you should never ignore.
Rheumatoid arthritis isn’t for old people
I'm-friday/Shutterstock This isn’t your grandmother’s arthritis: RA affects younger people and is caused by inflammation in the joints, not wear and tear like older people’s arthritis. With RA, your body attacks its own healthy joint tissue, according to the American College of Rheumatology. Symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, most commonly in the small joints of the hands and feet. Although it’s not the debilitating condition it once was, meds are necessary to slow the progression of this incurable disease. These might include “disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs” like methotrexate, and “biologic agents” like Humira that block immune signals. Low-impact exercise is also very important to increase muscle strength and reduce pressure on your joints. Fortunately, “rheumatoid arthritis may actually be decreasing,” Dr. Somers says. More good news for people recently diagnosed with RA: A new study from the U.K. showed that those who got treatment within six months of the onset of symptoms had very good long-term outcomes.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis has an easy fix
Albina-Glisic/Shutterstock In this autoimmune condition, the body attacks the thyroid gland, causing it to become underactive (hypothyroidism). According to the American Thyroid Association, as with other autoimmune-related diseases Hashimoto’s symptoms may come on gradually and be very non-specific. They include fatigue, weight gain, constipation, sensitivity to cold, dry skin, depression, and muscle aches. You may also develop a swelling, called a goiter, in the thyroid, located at the front of the neck. Luckily, a blood test for thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) can detect if your levels are low, and thyroid hormone replacement meds are very effective and have no side effects. Another thyroid-related autoimmune condition is Graves’ disease, which causes your thyroid to be overactive (hyperthyroid). Should you get your thyroid hormone levels checked?