The immune system attacks hair follicles (the structures from which hair grows). It usually does not threaten health, but it can greatly affect the way a person looks.
- Patchy hair loss on the scalp, face, or other areas of your body
Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (aPL)
A disease that causes problems in the inner lining of blood vessels resulting in blood clots in arteries or veins.
- Blood clots in veins or arteries
- Multiple miscarriages
- Lacy, net-like red rash on the wrists and knees
The immune system attacks and destroys the liver cells. This can lead to scarring and hardening of the liver, and possibly liver failure.
- Enlarged liver
- Yellowing of the skin or whites of eyes
- Itchy skin
- Joint pain
- Stomach pain or upset
A disease in which people can’t tolerate gluten, a substance found in wheat, rye, and barley, and also some medicines. When people with coeliac disease eat foods or use products that have gluten, the immune system responds by damaging the lining of the small intestines.
- Abdominal bloating and pain
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Missed menstrual periods
- Itchy skin rash
- Infertility or miscarriages
Graves’ disease (overactive thyroid)
A disease that causes the thyroid to make too much thyroid hormone.
- Weight loss
- Heat sensitivity
- Fine brittle hair
- Muscle weakness
- Light menstrual periods
- Bulging eyes
- Shaky hands
Sometimes there are no symptoms.
The immune system attacks the nerves that connect your brain and spinal cord with the rest of your body. Damage to the nerves makes it hard for them to transmit signals. As a result, the muscles have trouble responding to the brain.
- Weakness or tingling feeling in the legs that might spread to the upper body
- Paralysis in severe cases
Symptoms often progress relatively quickly, over a period of days or weeks, and often occur on both sides of the body.
Hashimoto’s disease (underactive thyroid)
A disease that causes the thyroid to not make enough thyroid hormone.
- Weight gain
- Sensitivity to cold
- Muscle aches and stiff joints
- Facial swelling
The immune system destroys the red blood cells. Yet the body can’t make new red blood cells fast enough to meet the body’s needs. As a result, your body does not get the oxygen it needs to function well, and your heart must work harder to move oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.
- Shortness of breath
- Cold hands or feet
- Yellowish skin or whites of eyes
- Heart problems, including heart failure
Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
A disease in which the immune system destroys blood platelets, which are needed for blood to clot.
- Tiny purple or red dots on the skin that might look like a rash
- Easy bruising
- Nosebleed or bleeding in the mouth
- Very heavy menstrual period
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
A disease that causes chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the most common forms of IBD.
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhoea, which may be bloody
Some people also have:
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Mouth ulcers (in Crohn’s disease)
- Painful or difficult bowel movements (in ulcerative colitis)
A group of diseases that involve muscle inflammation and muscle weakness. Polymyositis and dermatomyositis are two types, and these are more common in women than men.
- Slow but progressive muscle weakness beginning in the muscles closest to the trunk of the body. Polymyositis affects muscles involved with making movement on both sides of the body. With dermatomyositis, a skin rash comes before or at the same time as muscle weakness.
May also have:
- Fatigue after walking or standing
- Tripping or falling
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
Content on this page was adapted from womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/autoimmune-diseases.html