Other Autoimmune Diseases and Lupus

Scientists do not understand why, but about 30 percent of people with lupus also often develop a second or third autoimmune disease. Most people are diagnosed with their second soon after the first diagnosis of lupus. People whose lupus began earlier, at age 16 vs. 28, seem to be more likely to develop additional autoimmune diseases.1

In 78 percent of those with studied, lupus develops first and in 23 percent another autoimmune develops first.1Sjogren’s syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common additional autoimmune diseases diagnosed in people with lupus.1

Autoimmune disorders that sometimes overlap lupus

Some of the most common autoimmune diseases that overlap with lupus are:1-3

Antiphospholipid syndrome

Antiphospholipid syndrome is a type of blood disorder that makes it more likely to develop blood clots.

Atopic dermatitis (eczema)

People with lupus have roughly double the risk of developing atopic dermatitis (6.8 percent versus 3.1 percent) compared to the rest of the population.3

Autoimmune (lupus) hepatitis

Autoimmune (lupus) hepatitis is a liver disease that results from elevated liver enzymes causing jaundice and other gastrointestinal complications.2

Autoimmune thrombocytopenia

Autoimmune thrombocytopenia is a blood disorder where the body attacks healthy platelets (one of the parts of blood) causing easy bruising, bleeding, and tiny reddish, purple spots on the lower legs.

Autoimmune thyroid disease

Between 3 percent and 24 percent of people with lupus also have a thyroid issue. Hypothyroidism is the name of an underactive thyroid. Hyperthyroidism is the name for overactive thyroid.1-2

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a type of immune disorder in which eating gluten damages the small intestine, causing diarrhea, fatigue and anemia, osteoporosis, and malnutrition.

Fibrosing alveolitis

Fibrosing alveolitis is a lung disease that makes it hard for the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs to take up enough oxygen and causes scarring of the lungs.

Juvenile chronic arthritis

Formerly called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, this type of arthritis occurs in children under the age of 16.

Myasthenia gravis

Myasthenia gravis is a condition that causes weakness in the arm and leg muscles, double vision, and problems swallowing, chewing, speech, and walking.

Polymyositis

Polymyositis is a muscle disease in which the muscles and nearby blood vessels become inflamed. Symptoms are pain and weakness in the muscles, most often in the neck, shoulder, upper arms, and thighs.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune disorder in which the body attacks the tissue in the joints, causing swelling, pain, bone erosion and deformity.

Scleroderma

Scleroderma makes the connective tissue harden, which causes tightening of the skin, joint pain, and Raynaud’s syndrome.

Sjogren’s syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome causes the body to attack the healthy cells that create tears and saliva. This leads to dry eyes, mouth, and vagina; difficulty swallowing, and irritated red eyes. Up to 10 percent of people with lupus also have Sjogren’s syndrome.4

Why do autoimmune diseases seem to cluster?

As with many autoimmune disorders, there are many unanswered questions about lupus, including why other autoimmune conditions seem to crop up. Doctors simply do not understand why so many people with lupus also develop other autoimmune conditions. Adding to the mystery, sometimes people develop these conditions at the same time and sometimes years apart.5

Scientists believe that it takes some combination of genetics, environmental exposures, hormones, and lifestyle factors to cause the body’s immune system to misfire in a new way.

Since having multiple autoimmune conditions at once is so common in people with lupus, it is important to tell your doctor if you begin to experience any new symptoms, or if older symptoms change or become more severe.

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: January 2020