Autoimmune disease isn’t just one disease – there are many types. Here are the most common autoimmune diseases in Canada affecting women.
1. Adrenal Fatigue – Addison’s Disease
Symptoms: The body creates cortisol, which helps your body deal with stress. And with this condition, if you’re experiencing lots of stress, your adrenal glands may not pump out enough hormones, leading to a wide variety of symptoms including fatigue, lethargy, muscle weakness, irritability, loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss, the need to urinate frequently, increased thirst and craving for salty foods.
Who is most susceptible: People with a high stress lifestyle or those who suffer from hypertension. Other triggers include: Prolonged stress due to financial hardship, bad relationships or work environment, and other conditions that entail feelings of helplessness, negative thinking and emotional trauma; lack of sleep; poor diet; and lack of exercise.
Symptoms: For reasons not yet understood, the immune system in people with Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) attacks and inflames healthy cells, tissue and organs.
Who is most susceptible: Women (90 per cent of all lupus patients are women). Those between the ages of 15 and 45 (women of “childbearing age” are by far the most likely to develop lupus). Being of African-American, Asian or Native American descent. (These ethnicities develop lupus two to three times more often than Caucasians.
3. Lyme Disease
Symptoms: It starts with an infected tick bite causing erythema migrans, which looks like bull’s-eye-shaped rash that’s red with edges that are slightly raised. Many with Lyme Disease experience flu-like symptoms such as tiredness, muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, a high fever, chills, and neck stiffness.
Who is most susceptible: People who live or travel often to wooded areas. Those with a weak immune system.
4. Multiple Sclerosis
Symptoms: In Multiple Sclerosis, the coating around nerve fibres (called myelin) is damaged, causing a range of symptoms. This causes vision problems, weakness, memory problems, balance and coordination problems, and a variety of sensations in the limbs (such as prickling, tingling, or numbness).
Who is most susceptible: People with low levels of vitamin D, smokers and people who are obese or overweight.
5. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Symptoms: The immune system attacks healthy body tissue. Your immune system normally makes antibodies that attack bacteria and viruses, helping to fight infection. The exact triggers are not known although some have experienced symptoms after this.
Who is most susceptible: While your genes don’t actually cause rheumatoid arthritis, they can make you more susceptible to environmental factors — such as infection with certain viruses and bacteria — that may trigger the disease.
To learn more, check out: Why Are Women At Risk For Autoimmune Diseases?