There are many autoimmune related disorders, and you may have one of them without even realising it just what it is.
If you have an autoimmune disorder it is the result of your own antibodies attacking your body in the glands or tissues and you may have inherited the tendency, such as with Rheumatoid Arthritis, or it could relate to how your own immune system deals with trigger factors and even environmental influences.
Autoimmune disorders include Lupus, Thyroid problems – both low and high levels, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and many, many more. Each condition has specific symptoms but there are some common factors seen with a large number of autoimmune diseases.
11 Key Symptoms to look out for
Many of these are common to menopause such as hair loss, weight change, fatigue and brain fog, but if you have several of these symptoms it is time to check in with your doctor to get to the root of what the problem may be.
Inflammation: When your body attacks itself, then you will see inflammation and swelling, and this what is key to most autoimmune disorders. In rheumatoid arthritis for instance, you will often first notice the swelling around the joints and you will usually experience pain and a feeling of heat in the joints.
Persistent, low-grade fever: Hard to tell when you have persistent flushes, but autoimmune diseases show as a fever that lasts several days or more.
Extreme fatigue: Again this is such a common symptom, you can’t see it in isolation, but fatigue is among the most common so also look for other symptoms as well.
Swollen glands: You can notice these in several areas including in the neck, groin, arm pits, under the jaw and behind the ears.
Itchy skin or skin rashes: Itchy skin at menopause can be related to changing hormone levels, but may also be related to several conditions, including celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis and lupus.
Tingling: It may just be a temporary sign of a trapped nerve, but ‘pins-and-needles’ in the feet may be a sign of diabetes. Tingling sensations again could be carpal tunnel if in the wrists, but persistent tingling in the arms, hands, legs and feet may be a symptom of multiple sclerosis so if it persists should be checked by your doctor.
Changes In weight: Unfortunately at menopause it is usually weight gain that is common, but if you lose, or gain, a stone or so then it may be related to Coeliac or Graves’ disease.
Joint/muscle pain/weakness: Again at menopause fluctuating hormone levels can be the cause of this, but persistent pain in joints and muscles is associated with a number of autoimmune disorders, including MS and rheumatic disease.
Infections: Autoimmune is often characterized by susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, so if these are frequent for you, and you take longer to recover from then, then time to have a check up.
Shortness of breath/palpitations: Autoimmunity can often contribute to feeling out of breath, or a heaviness in the chest, sometimes with irregular heartbeats. Menopause is often time of anxiety, so these symptoms may also be hormonally related but always do need to be checked to find the cause.
Brain fog: This is one of the common complaints at menopause when difficulty thinking, concentrating or remembering things is experienced by most women. Seen alone it could be just hormonal, but it is a common symptom that appears in many autoimmune diseases.
Hair loss: A distressing symptom related to low progesterone and thyroid conditions but may also be alopecia areata, which is an autoimmune disease..
How your hormones affect autoimmune conditions
As the principal effect of autoimmune conditions is the attacking of your own central nervous system by your immune system. This may happen occasionally so you don’t really notice and can continue to operate normally, but when it becomes extreme then the effects are severe.
Oestrogen dominance is common at menopause and the onset of autoimmune disorders occurs most often at that time.The role of excess oestrogen is linked to many health conditions such as heart disease and cancer and a it is well known that autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis often go into remission during pregnancy. This is when progesterone levels are very high, but their conditions return when the levels fall after giving birth.
Good progesterone levels are essential to protect the body from autoimmune diseases as it has long been know that progesterone is produced in the central nervous system and that it plays a role in helping nerves communicate with each other. This is why progesterone is related to neurotransmitters, that is, substances that carry messages from nerve to nerve and help run the vast communication network within the body.
Progesterone promotes the formation of the myelin sheath, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects nerve fibres. The myelin sheath is to nerves what plastic insulation is to electrical wires. In multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous sytem, the loss of myelin results in a breakdown of the nerve signaling system throughout the body.
Progesterone is the main precursor to corticosteroids and in progesterone-deficient women, restoration of normal progesterone levels may enhance corticosteroid production, thus suppressing the autoimmune attack.
Hormone balance is essential throughout life, in younger women having good progesterone levels can help reduce the risk of lupus, and in older women it gives protection to the immune system to help with autoimmune disorders such as thyroid imbalance, brain fog and hair loss.