What and How Many Autoimmune Disorders Do You Have?

When you are interested in how autoimmune disorders speed biological aging, it is necessary to know what and how many autoimmune disorders are involved. It is also necessary to know the severity of the disorder(s) and the chronological age at the onset as well as what other health problems are involved. In this brief post I offer a few references that address how many health conditions are considered to be autoimmune disorders and the tendency for patients to have more than one autoimmune diagnosis.

What Autoimmune Disorders Do You Have?

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recognizes 80 different autoimmune diseases (https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/autoimmune-diseases). The American Autoimmune Related Disease Association lists approximately 20 additional conditions ( https://www.aarda.org/research-report/), for a total closer to 100.

It is not difficult for an interested person to gain basic information about these diseases. In addition to pages linked above,  a good place for anyone to start is on the Medlineplus web page that is devoted to autoimmune diseases ( https://medlineplus.gov/autoimmunediseases.html).

This basic information will not make anyone an expert. Some of the descriptions are really poorly written. Some of them are older and use outdated terminology  Even so they can help to raise awareness that these are  serious and usually chronic -as in lifelong and incurable – conditions. They can be deadly. The person who is living with them cannot ignore them or the impact they have on chronological aging.

How Many Autoimmune Disorders Do You Have?

There is a well-established body of evidence cataloguing the co-occurrence of autoimmune disorders.

http://www.healio.com/rheumatology/rheumatoid-arthritis/news/print/healio-rheumatology/%7Bed6a292b-402b-402b-82ca-c2c2e9c01e3b%7D/staying-ahead-of-multiple-autoimmune-disorders

Over the years I have discovered that most people will not drop all of their autoimmune diagnoses into casual conversation. For example, even though people with lupus, people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and people with multiple sclerosis (MS) are all quite likely to have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, they seldom mention it first. If you want to know how many autoimmune disorders are playing a role in their biological aging, you must ask.

When people have three or more autoimmune diseases at the same time, they are said to have multiple autoimmune syndrome or MAS. Some researchers are promoting the use of the term “polyautoimmunity” for the coexistence of autoimmune diseases that follow a specific  grouping pattern.

Adriana Rojas-Villarraga, Jenny Amaya-Amaya, Alberto Rodriguez-Rodriguez, Rubén D. Mantilla, and Juan-Manuel Anaya, “Introducing Polyautoimmunity: Secondary Autoimmune Diseases No Longer Exist,” Autoimmune Diseases, vol. 2012, Article ID 254319, 9 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/254319

A friend once said, “Autoimmune Diseases like to hang out together.” That statement sticks in my head. In Living Well with Autoimmune Disease: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You …That You Need to Know (2002), Mary Shomon introduces the concept of “underlying autoimmunity.” Since there is no single medical specialist trained diagnose and treat all autoimmune conditions, this can be a very important point for anyone  who is dealing with autoimmune issues as well as those who have questions about the relationship between their chronological and biological ages.

While I tend to think that autoimmunity always speeds biological aging, the relationship between them can become extremely complex when different glands, organs, and/or organ systems are involved. When a person’s glands and organs are aging at different rates, chronological age ain’t nothing but an often irrelevant number.

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2 thoughts on “What and How Many Autoimmune Disorders Do You Have?

  1. My aunt recently passed at 78. She had a variety of ailments. RA, Lupus, and something called Fahr’s Syndrome, which causes calcification in the brain, called “brain stones” . These are present then increase in size, eventually causing strokes, lost of function of limbs, and mental disorders such as depression and mood swings. It is fatal, and rare, and we were told by the Dr. It is a genetic disease. I’m wondering if any of my depressed people in my family have a connection to this disease now. Never heard of it ever

    • https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Fahrs-Syndrome-Information-Page

      From depression to Fahr’s Syndrome without other symptoms and diagnostic tests seems to be a huge leap. Fahr’s is an incurable RARE genetic disorder while depression is an extremely common disorder that often responds to treatment.

      What symptoms did your aunt have before she died and when did they appear? Can you get permission to discuss her case with the neurologist and rheumatologist who were treating her? Since lupus can attack any organ in the body the nervous system and the brain are definitely not immune. There are several terms doctors use to describe this: neuropsychiatric lupus (NPSLE), neurocognitive dysfunction, or central nervous system lupus (CNS lupus). The Fahr’s Syndrome could have been diagnosed as part of standard lupus care.

      Lupus is diagnosed too frequently to be considered a “rare disease.” Lupus is also seen as including a genetic component. Depression is also a symptom of lupus.

      How many of the people in your family who are depressed have been screened for lupus and other autoimmune diseases that include a CNS component? How many have sought and are following through with treatment for depression? One diagnostic step at a time.

      It took a great team of physicians to convince me that my never ending spinal issues were not caused by CNS lupus. So I get the concern. I have learned, slowly over many years, to limit my tendency to jump to the most catastrophic conclusion. I still get not just two but three expert opinions.

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