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.

    • Katie Cleary says:

      Thanks so much for the good information here, Louise.

    • davetrindle says:

      To LMeadows66: I’m not a doctor, but I would not buy into Louise’s negativity (i.e. the whole image of multiple viruses slowly working themselves deep into your most vital organs–what nonsense!). Imagine the effect that such a statement has on a person Mentally, Spiritually, and Physically! Same with your Primary’s negativity, saying you are a “train wreck” and gossiping about the surgeons and specialists. It may be hard to find a doc taking your insurance, but it’s just hard, not impossible. In fact, laws and regulations require health plans to have sufficient coverage in your area by all types of physicians. Often, the docs who accept the Health Plans that pay them less are the same docs who are more generous with their time, and willing to put more effort and time into helping you find answers.

      My advice is to move away from those who are negative, and towards those who are motivated to help you. Also, based on personal experience, if you need antidepressants or anti anxiety meds, go get a full evaluation by a Psychiatrist. Unfortunately, the best Psychiatrists do not take insurance, but it’s worth paying cash to get the initial evaluation, and a few follow-ups at least. They may even be able to help with pain of certain types. Then, once you have found what works, your primary can continue renewing the prescriptions if you give him/her a copy of what the psychiatrist prescribed. If you need pain medication, then you deserve to get it. If your docs are so intimidated by the system they are afraid to prescribe needed pain medication to a human being in pain, then you are definitely with the wrong doc. That’s cowardice and malpractice in my opinion to allow a patient to suffer pain that can be controlled with modern medicine. Not everyone is a pain pill addict. Quite the opposite, it is only a minority of patients who abuse pain medications. You might have more luck with a pain clinic, where they know the rules, and they know what they are doing, and they offer non-opioid solutions in addition to opioids, and they are not intimidated by the system. You have the right to competent medical care. If your Health Plan doesn’t offer enough providers of different specialties, then write a letter to your state Department of Insurance explaining exactly what your experience has been, in plain english. You do not need a lawyer, the Dept of Ins. is very, very pro-consumer, and they will fight for you. Make sure you carbon copy your complaint addressed to the “Chief Legal Officer” of the Health Plan, and send it certified mail. Believe me, you will get their attention (I used to work in the Health Insurance field–if you need help with this, you can email me at [email protected]).

      What other resources are out there for you? Are you over age 65? Then contact AARP for local volunteers. Find local agencies for the ageing, etc. If you are on Medicaid, you still have rights, but you may have to fight harder for them. How about friends and relatives (the positive ones), or fellow church-members. Is there a “Catholic Charities” near you? They provide psychiatric and psychological counseling based on what you can afford. You don’t have to be Catholic, and they do not promote Catholic Doctrine. I know this because I used to work at a Catholic Charities near me.

      You might look up ChrisKresser.Com on the internet. Chris suffered multiple health problems for over 10 years, and after seeing many, many doctors, he finally started studying the scientific papers himself and exploring alternative practitioners, and gradually he came back to health. Now he provides a vast array of mostly nutritional suggestions (and a few supplements) to address the source of the disease, which is often the Gut, where neurotransmitters are made, and where autoimmunities and inflammation often arise and are maintained from irritations to the gut. He focuses on the the Paleo Diet, but is flexible to certain peoples particular needs. In my mind, he is the most knowledgable, and intellectually honest, and thorough source of this type of information. Unfortunately, as his practice has grown, he no longer consults with patients, but he can point to practitioners in your area who follow the same philosophy.

      Also, if you are not already taking them, there are three supplements that nearly everyone should be on, especially if you’re sick: 1) Cod Liver Oil, there is no more powerful regulator of inflammation–at least 1 TBSP/Day (has dha and epa as fish oil, and is a natural source of much-needed vitamin A and D–I take Carlson’s, which is very pure. I take 2 TBSPs/day because I have Autoimmune Thyroiditis, and Autoimmune Rheumatoid Arthritis), 2) Magnesium (nearly 100% of Americans are deficient in this important nutrient), 3) Probiotics–in pill form, or, better yet, as yogurt–or my favorite yogurt-like drink, Kefir.

      If you have psychiatric issues, you may find that these same supplements are helpful, especially the cod liver or fish oil. The same inflammation that causes havoc with your other organs apparently is also the source of depression/anxiety, so anything you can do to reduce inflammation (fish oil and a daily walk) will improve these illnesses, too. The probiotics, among other benefits, re-balance your intestinal flora (the good bacteria) which manufacture Serotonin, other neurotransmitters, as well as many other substances required by the body for health.

      I am not a doctor, but everything I have written here is based on my own personal experience, and vast reading.

      Most important: Don’t let Negative People Psych you out: You are not a train wreck. You are a human being. You are loved. You are part of a responsible community that will support you. You just have to reach out, get their attention, be persistent, and avoid negative people (who, sadly, are often family members)…may you return to good health, Dave Trindle

      • Tammy Traylor says:

        Thank you so much for your very informative comment. You are absolutely right about negative people bringing us down, and sadly, they usually are FAMILY! Why in the world do some people want to hurt their loved ones, especially at a time when they really need some love & feal supported. But seriously, you gave great tips and a little self esteem boost to those of us who might be having a tough week. I’d love to have you as a personal close friend so we could boost each other along on our crazy, painful journey. Lol. I really appreciate you! Have a fantastic day.

  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.

      • davetrindle says:

        Thanks, I will check that book out. I hope its available on audio…DaveT

      • Tammy Traylor says:

        Thank you so much for mentioning the book. I need all the help I can get as I am very unsupported. Fortunately I married a good man. He may not understand everything that is going on with me, I don’t either most of the time, but he knows that I am truly suffering with both physical & emotional problems and am not dreaming all of this up. I’ve suffered with this unknown disease for over 20 years, and maybe even earlier. I remember having some of my symptoms in my childhood on occasion, but usually nothing that ever required a visit to the doc (like rashes, constipation, tummy troubles). However, a doctor told my mom that my tummy upset problems were from my nerves when I was just 6 years old. I’ve suffered with IBS which was diagnosed at age 20. So yes, whenever they find out which autoimmune disease I have, I know that my inability to deal with stress is part of my illness. It is so hard to get well or control your emotions when your own parents & siblings think it’s all in your head. I’m going to look for that book!!! Thank you so much.

  5. Lmeadows66 says:

    I’m new here. My name is Lorri. I’ve lived in In. all of my life. I broke my left foot and was in a walking boot for 3yrs and finally I’m able to wear my diabetic shoes now but only for a short time due to pain. Other than my primary doctor (my doctor is an internal medicine doctor) I’ve been seeing a physical therapist who is non traditional who can’t believe that my doctor won’t prescribe anything at all for my pain and my nerves (I also suffer PTSD as well as panic attacks) All my primary doctor ever says is that I should continue with my pt and says he knows there’s something else that is serious but he doesn’t know what it is…. My primary told me that my body is a train wreck and because I have so many things wrong with me… He told me that other doctors simply do not want to mess with me unless they are forced to do in an emergency situation! My primary doctor is also very hard to get an appointment with! I feel like no one wants to help me and it’s like my primary doctor just dismisses me! I would change doctors but we don’t have many doctors who will accept my insurance…. Also where I live it’s very hard to find a doctor for my mental health! I realize that there are a lot of people who abuse medications and it really angers me that people like me who have real health issues can’t get the proper medication to help with the pain and help for my mental health! My. Pt is upset with me because I keep losing weight but the thing is, I’ve been trying to eat more but after so many surgeries and still need more surgeries… One being a hernia the size of a basketball! My primary told me that basically the surgeons are waiting till it strangles so that I will have to have yet again a life saving operation! I apologize for this being so long but I’m at the end of my rope and I’m wondering if anyone else is going through the same thing that I am and if so? I’d like suggestions about what I can do?
    Thanks for reading my rant

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