12 Super Symptoms of Autoimmune Disease

12 autoimmune super symptoms

Close to 100 diseases can be classified as autoimmune-related. And while each has specific symptoms associated with it, there are some “super symptoms” that are common to a great number of autoimmune diseases.

Super Symptoms List

  1. Inflammation:  This is at the root of autoimmune disease.  Your body attacks itself and then responds with inflammation and swelling, which is often accompanied by heat and pain.
  2. Persistent, low-grade fever:  People who have an autoimmune disease often have a fever that lasts several days or more.
  3. Extreme fatigue:  Fatigue is among the most common symptoms of autoimmune disease.
  4. Swollen glands: Swollen glands (also known as lymph nodes) in the neck, groin, arm pits, under the jaw and behind the ears are a symptom of autoimmune disease.
  5. Itchy skin or skin rashes:  Irritated skin can be a symptom of several illnesses, including celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, psoriasis and lupus.
  6. Tingling: Diabetes patients often complain of a pins-and-needles sensation in the feet, or a loss of feeling altogether.  Tingling in the legs, which sometimes spread to the upper body, could be a symptom of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  A symptom of multiple sclerosis is tingling in the arms, hands, legs and feet.
  7. Changes In weight:  Celiac disease can induce weight loss or weight gain. Symptoms for Graves ’ disease include weight loss. Generally, be on the lookout for a weight loss or gain of 10 to 15 pounds.
  8. Joint/muscle pain/weakness: Pain in joints and muscles is associated with a number of autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis and rheumatic disease.
  9. Infections: Autoimmune is often characterized by susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, and slower recovery from those infections.
  10. Shortness of breath/palpitations: Autoimmunity can often contribute to feeling out of breath, or a heaviness in the chest. Some patients feel irregular heartbeats.
  11. Brain fog: Difficulty thinking, concentrating or remembering things is a common symptom that appears in many autoimmune disease conditions.
  12. Hair loss: People with thyroid disorders often experience hair loss, as do those with lupus. And, of course, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes profound hair loss.

References and Further Reading Thyroid Disease
New York Times Health Guide: Autoimmune Disorders Autoimmune Hepatitis
Huffington Post: How to Stop Attacking Yourself: 9 Steps to Heal Autoimmune Disease Autoimmune Disease: Ten Symptoms
SheKnows: Tips to Clear Your Head
AutoimmuneHealth: Autoimmune Disease Symptoms


About the Author
Gretchen Heber is an autoimmune mom and entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in online media. She has also worked with several daily newspapers across the United States, serving as a graphic designer, writer and editor.

This post contains opinions of the author. is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances.  Camino Real Ventures, Inc., the company that makes available to you, does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website.  Your use of the website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy



  1. Louise O'Connor says:

    Many of the symptoms on this infographic overlap with chronic fatigue symptoms due to viral infections, esp from retroviruses such as Epstein Barr and cytomegalovirus. Muscle twitches, tingling, swollen glands and fatigue are most significant. Retroviruses are not dormant as mainstream medicine likes us to believe. They slowly work their way deeper into the body by hijacking the genetic component of the cells. These viruses love to get into the central nervous system and liver. When they do you get liver tenderness and weird muscle twitches ad tingling. Some people get heart palpitations when the virus moves into the cardiac tissue. There is a mountain of research to show retroviruses are linked to serious neurological conditions such as MS. However for many neurologists they do not view retroviruses as triggers. For people who test their thyroid properly they may see raised reverse T3 (RT3). RT3 goes up in response to stress and chronic illness. This includes chronic illness due to long term latent infections.

  2. Please include emotional lability (instability), depression, anxiety. IMHO, and, being a licensed psychotherapist, these emotional symptoms are ORGANICALLY PART OF THE DISEASE ALONG WITH THE PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS. They are NOT, as most docs will claim, the result of sadness or anxiety from disturbing thoughts arising from the idea of being diagnosed with serious, incurable, progressive chronic disease (although the latter may aggravate the emotional symptoms). In PubMed you will see a growing body of evidence that depression itself is a inflammatory condition, and that there may be a self-perpetuating inter-action between the physical symptoms of autoimmunity and the emotional ones, each supporting the other.

    • Katie Cleary says:

      Such a great addition. Completely agree. I’d like to do a separate infographic on just these symptoms, but you are so right that they go hand in hand with the physical ones. Thanks for adding this important info.

  3. kingsley mary says:

    What we plan with thoughts and actions for our future so we can enjoy retirement/older age, right? Life can change drastically when a rare, incurable disease such as Systemic Scleroderma attacks our bodies without warning! My life started changing in Fall 07 in my hands, progressing fast to include weak/painful muscles, swelling, loss of range of motion and depression until 3/30/09 diagnosed with Systemic Diffuse Scleroderma which no one has ever heard of until diagnosed and adding insult to injury, neither have most doctors, leaving patients to fend for themselves on how to find treatment for symptoms because Scleroderma cannot be treated as yet. Most Scleroderma patients look normal in appearance but the damage is extensive on the inside of our bodies, stage 4 kidney disease, hiatal hernia, pulmonary fibrosis, aneurysm in heart, GI issues, skin changes and Raynaud’s in hands & feet are just a few of my Scleroderma challenges. I am one of the more functionable patients and grateful I have doctors who care and support from Sweetheart, family and friends. Some patients don’t have either doctors nor support and rely on facebook Scleroderma chat groups for advice, love and support from people who relate and understand what they are experiencing. My life has changed dramatically from 5 1/2 yrs ago and I am grateful for my Scleroderma journey because the more I reach out to others the more rewarding my life has become. I am a patient advocate helping to educate and promote public and medical awareness of the desperate need to recognise Scleroderma as the life threatening disease it is. Scleroderma was first documented 260 yrs. ago, now we want awareness to help alleviate the horrible suffering this disease causes physically, mentally and emotionally. Please help. EMILL:[email protected]

    • Katie Cleary says:

      Kudos to all you are doing, Mary! I would love to be part of your awareness work. I will reach out via email.

    • Linda Kim says:

      Dear Mary,
      My husband has recently been diagnosed with scleroderma, and pulmonary fibrosis. He has had stiffness and raynaulds and roseaca for 45 years, just not diagnosed. We have had success with an organic diet, fermented foods, and avoiding inflammatory foods such as wheat, sugar, and the nightshade family. When we stray from the diet (like pie at Marie Calander’s) he pays for it, as his symptoms flare up fast. So far he can still work, though the pace of life is slower. Good luck with your journey to better health.

  4. David Trindle says:

    This is a VERY incomplete list of symptoms. Autoimmunity, if not caused by Stress, is a Stress-driven disease. Stress responses control the immune system. The most difficult symptom many people have is anxiety/depression and “emotional lability” which means emotions are quickly changeable, and seems related to interpersonal interactions. There is usually an over-reaction to the slightest stressor, or criticism. This has to do with the effects of the disease on the Adrenal “fight or flight” hormones, which are out of whack, and inflammation in the brain, which basically what depression and anxiety are. The best thing a loved one, or a doctor, can do for an autoimmune person is to avoid stressing them. Unfortunately, many docs have no bedside manner for autoimmune persons, and more unfortunately, families are often critical and non-supportive to autoimmune persons. This should be listed as the #1 symptom of autoimmunity. Why are so many people, especially doctors, so uncomfortable with helping with this symptom. Most refuse to even engage the patient, at best give a referral to a psychiatrist, which may or may not help. ALL OF US INVOLVED WITH AUTOIMMUNITY HAVE TO STOP TURNING OUR BACK ON THIS VERY PRIMARY SYMPTOM AND SOURCE OF SUFFERING. The best treatment for autoimmunity is a comprehensive stress reduction program supported by family, friends, and doctors involved in the case.

    • Katie Cleary says:

      David, I agree with you and I think western medicine is starting to come around to this way of thinking. I have hope for that.

      Donna Jackson Nakazawa outlined many paths to this type of self-care treatment in her book “The Last Best Cure”. It’s a very thoughtful and important book with some good resources for people who want to learn more but don’t have support from their doctors.

      About a year ago, I took a MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) class based on Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s program, and it was foundational for my healing. My goal for 2015 is to publish more posts about self-care in 2015 to bring heavier focus here.

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