New Research Says Some Autoimmune Disorders Linked
By Kate Gardner
Fifty million Americans live with autoimmune diseases every day. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), there are over 100 autoimmune diseases that can affect virtually every system of the body. Some of the more common autoimmune diagnoses include type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and celiac disease. While these diseases can have hugely different symptoms, they are all triggered when the immune system attacks healthy tissue.
If you suffer from more than one autoimmune disorder, there may be a reason. Researchers in Sweden wanted to know if some autoimmune disorders were more likely to cluster, or occur together. The study looked at 116,320 twins (both identical and fraternal) to see if one or both people in each set of twins had any autoimmune diseases.
The researchers found that some autoimmune diseases were more likely to occur together, particularly Addison's disease and vitiligo. Addison's disease is caused by low production of cortisol leading to symptoms such as low blood pressure and anemia. Vitiligo occurs when the skin's pigment-producing cells stop working, causing patches of lighter skin or hair. Celiac disease, on the other hand, was most likely to occur on its own.
The researchers also discovered some autoimmune diseases had a stronger genetic component than others. When identical twins have the same autoimmune disease, it suggests a high level of heritability. This means the disease is largely caused by genetic factors and less by environmental factors. The study found these diseases included:
- Addison's disease
- Celiac disease
- Type 1 diabetes
If you have one of these diseases, it is highly likely others in your family do too.
While many autoimmune diseases run in families, the study did find that some seemed to be impacted by environmental factors more than others. These autoimmune diseases included:
- Hashimoto's hypothyroidism
- Grave's disease
- Atrophic gastritis
When scientists talk about environmental factors in disease they are talking about our diet and exercise as well as the potentially dangerous things we've been exposed to in our food, water, and air (such as pollutants and UV rays).
Autoimmune diseases are typically lifelong and account for millions of dollars in medical spending each year. Having a better understanding of how each of these diseases works, and whether they are related to one another, can help doctors and patients find better ways to manage symptoms and search for cures. If you think you have symptoms of an autoimmune disease, visit your healthcare provider.
To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Tempe, Ariz.