Why Having One Autoimmune Disease May Cause Another

Editor’s Note: We believe that patients are a key part of developing and leading the conversation in disease communities. Patient Worthy sometimes partners with reputable agencies that wish to speak with patients about opportunities related to their diagnosed conditions. These opportunities can include activities such as sharing stories with other patients or health professionals about their diagnosis journey or recording video testimonials. To learn more about how to get involved with an opportunity for individuals impacted by autoimmune diseases, click here.

In the past, researchers have made connections between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and both gum disease and dry age-related macular degeneration. More recently, shares Medical XPress, doctors sought to understand how an autoimmune disease like RA may increase the risk of developing other autoimmune conditions. 

Autoimmune Disease Research

A research team from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus explored the relationship between different autoimmune conditions using mice models. First, researchers injected mice models with anti-collagen antibodies. 

Humans with arthritis do have these autoantibodies. In fact, autoimmune conditions result when autoantibodies attack parts of the body, mistaking them for foreign invaders. With RA, these autoantibodies damage the cartilage around the joints, causing pain and swelling. 

The researchers then evaluated the mice following these injections. The researchers discovered that the anti-collagen antibodies caused the injected mice to develop arthritis. Following the onset of the arthritis, the mice spines began to curve, with vertebral fusion. Researchers believe this is similar to what happens in humans with axial spondyloarthritis. Learn more about axial spondyloarthritis here

While researchers still do not know how one autoimmune disease may cause another, they do hope to identify the underlying causes in future research. 

To learn more about the findings, take a look at Immune Network

About Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder. This means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself; in this case, RA affects the joints, including joints in the hands and feet. RA is considered the most common form of autoimmune arthritis. Altogether, an estimated 1-2% of people worldwide have RA, with incidences increasing with age. Females are 2-3x more likely to develop RA than males.

In some cases, symptoms of RA plateau; in others, symptoms manifest rapidly. However, in many cases, RA slowly progresses over years. Those with RA may experience periods of remission followed by symptomatic periods. Symptoms associated with RA include:

  • Joint, back, or muscle pain
  • Fatigue and/or general malaise
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Joint stiffness, inflammation, weakness, or tenderness
  • Restricted movement
  • Skin lumps or redness
  • Finger bumps or swelling
  • Dry mouth
  • “Pins and needles” sensation
  • Fever
  • Unintended weight loss

Editor’s Note: We believe that patients are a key part of developing and leading the conversation in disease communities. Patient Worthy sometimes partners with reputable agencies that wish to speak with patients about opportunities related to their diagnosed conditions. These opportunities can include activities such as sharing stories with other patients or health professionals about their diagnosis journey or recording video testimonials. To learn more about how to get involved with an opportunity for individuals impacted by autoimmune diseases, click here.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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