Autoimmune Disorders and Immune System

This is an entirely theoretical question, so all you scientists....

I've always wondered what if any relationship there is between "autoimmune" and "immune system". The reason I wondered is that all my life I have had an unusually strong immune system. I road in a van with all the other kids who one by one got the classic childhood diseases and I never got any of them! I rarely get the flu or a cold. (I'm usually quite indignant when I do!). And I am part of the 10-15% of the population who "spontaneously cleared" the HepC virus. (I have the antibodies for HepC, but no detectable virus) Then in my 40s I got my first autoimmune disorder - Graves Disease (hyperthyroidism) and in my 50s my second, Type 1 Diabetes. I know that people with one autoimmune condition are susceptible to getting other ones.

So does this mean that my immune system works so hard at fighting off disease, that it also mistakenly attacks itself (the autoimmune response)? Just curious - wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience or knows anything about a connection between the two things.

I'm rather curious, too, about whether if you have one auto-immune disease, it is easier to get another - like T2. I have read that auto-immune diseases tend to cluster in one person, so it seems likely.

Type 2 isn't an autoimmune disorder, that's how you can differentiate between the two types. But yes, I've definitely read that if you have one autoimmune disorder it's common to develop another. Smart endos monitor their type 1 patients, especially females for thyroid.

T2 can be auto-immune for some people. There are lots of forms of T2, but hardly anyone is diagnosed beyond the initial dx because the treatment for all is the same.

It can be?? I didn't know that! I thought that's the key way that they differentiate between the types! That Type 1 is clarified by having antibodies! Could those people who are type 2 but have antibodies be misdiagnosed? (People like me who are assumed to be type 2 due to age, and because I'm LADA, the oral meds worked for 15 months). I'm sorry if my ignorance about Type 2 variations is showing, but I definitely don't want to hold onto incorrect information!

I have come to exactly the same conclusion. I have never had the flu, my mom only knew I'd had measles when my brother got them 2 weeks after I'd felt a little sluggish, I seldom missed a day of school or work. When I was hit with an autoimmune problem 4 years ago, my body stopped just short of eating itself alive. I think my T2 was just one more result of the autoimmune problem, and definitely NOT the cause of it. It bothers me that the treatment is the same, no matter what the cause. The doctors have absolutely no interest in finding a cause. What if it comes back? They'll look at my A1Cs in the low 5s and say, you have to expect complications when you have diabetes. Pardon me? I have to expect severe peripheral neuropathy, amyotrophic neuropathy, and autonomic neuropathy even though it's very easy for me to maintain good BG? I'm sorry, this makes me crabby. I just want to reiterate that my experience makes me agree with you.

Zoe, they are doing lots of research into T2 here, there are 40 genes involved in T2 disease, at least. They are finding a link between auto-immunity and T2 also. I have had eczema for years and now T2. On the other hand upon diagnosis my dr. linked T2 to the lymphoma I had several years ago. I suspect the type of chemo they give to people with lymphoma could affect the pancreas, certainly it cured the cancer in my liver. Cosumne, you would seem to have a definite link with T2 and auto-immunity. Please keep well!

My endocrinologist says that I'm an "atypical T2" and that, for me, diabetes is most likely an autoimmune disorder. I have Multiple Sclerosis. I have something very like celiac disease, but haven't been formally diagnosed. The blood tests always come back negative for celiac, but that's probably because I haven't eaten any significant amount of gluten for years. Since that handles things well for me, I haven't felt a need to do formal gluten challenge and/or biopsy. I also have Hashimoto's disease (hypothyroid) and my thyroid has been underactive periodically since I was a teenager. Because there's diabetes in my family going back several generations, I've had blood tests annually for over a decade, including HbA1c, FBG, cholesterol, THS and the usual stuff. The test results have been solidly normal, with the thyroid tending to be on the low end, right up through a year ago. Things changed very suddenly for me in the late summer/early fall. C-peptide test shows that I am still producing insulin. I may have other antibodies, though, but the GAD test in British Columbia isn't fully covered by provincial health insurance and I can't afford to pay for it. I'm not worried about it, though. My principal concern is to achieve normal BG levels.

Most autoimmune disorders are triggered by something like a serious infection, virus or a vaccination. I have had MS for over 25 years; fortunately, I have a fairly benign version that stays in remission for years at a time with minor exacerbations. My theory is that the trigger for my autoimmune problems was a routine measles vaccination I had when I was 5 years old: it nearly killed me. I can still remember the hallucinations I had from the fever.

Hello Zoe, here is the discussion about the autoimmune reaction found in some T2 diabetics.

I know you are one of our "science" people, Holger. Any thoughts on the autoimmune/immune system question?

Thanks, Cosumne Jan. I was wondering if anyone had the same experience!

Wow, Zoe! I never connected these dots before. But you may have something here. I've stated several times how I did not go to the doctor for so many years because I just never get sick. If I do get sick it is mild and short. I can count on one hand the number of times I was really sick for more than a day in the last 20 years. Now I wonder how many of us fit this description. Very interesting. Although, I really don't want any more autoimmune issues. D is quite enough!

Thanks, Randy! I hope you don't get any other autoimmune disorders too!

I was starting to think I was imagining a connection, and really wondered if there were others. I thought it made logical sense, but don't know enough about physiology to understand the connection. You sound just like me. When I retired I got money for all the sick days I'd accumulated!

It does seem like it could be a piece of the puzzle. I don't have the knowledge or training to make a determination either, but it would be an interesting study. I can't remember the last time I had the flu. Never have had a flu shot. Usually the worst thing I get is a sinus headache. Maybe a cold every couple years.

I have always wondered this myself. I rarely get sick, and it's almost odd. I don't do anything special (no flu shots, no crazy handwashing, etc), but everyone around me can be dropping like flies from flus and colds and I'm fine. Never had the flu that I'm aware of. In fact, other than an odd bout with strep when I was in college, I am just never sick.

Yep, same here. Sometimes I wake up with a stuffy nose and think I'm getting a cold, but then it goes away and I realize it's mild allergies, or if it persists I take some vitamin c and then in a few days I fight it off.

I've been talking about "autoimmune" since I was diagnosed (well, re-diagnosed anyway), and my strong "immune system" all my life (other people comment on it too)but just started wondering what is the relationship between the two.

Thanks for the input, Shawnmarie. I had a pretty strong stomach too, eating very spicy food, strong coffee, etc, until I got acid reflux disease. I still eat spicy food and drink espresso I just have to avoid things like tomatoes, onions and oj.

I almost never get sick either. Like others I have many sick people around me but I never get sick. I have also wondered about the connection. I would be willing to bet there is not a whole lot of research looking into this connection. Seems like it may be an angle to figure out in the hopes of developing a cure but I have never heard much about it. You have re-intrigued me so I am going to go a searching. Will let you know what I find...

I have had similar questions, Zoe. I was the one who'd go three years without getting a cold. I also healed very quickly. Then I developed Hashimoto's thyroiditis (autoimmune hypothyroidism) and Type 2. I also have hyperplasia of the adrenals, PCOS and endometriosis. All of these conditions except the T2 involve abnormal growths (benign tumors or nodules) of the endocrine glands -- and all of them show up in clusters in individuals and families with other autoimmune diseases (in my family, rheumatoid arthritis and uveitis) and are considered to be autoimmune-related.

Maybe having a "strong" immune system is a mixed blessing?

When we found the melanoma lesion on my foot the pathologist noted the "perfusion" around it -- a sign that my immune system was fighting it. The same thing that kept melanoma from spreading may have also given me T2: a strong and reactive immune system.

For that, I choose to be guardedly grateful.

Spontaneously clearing the HepC virus was the one that cinched it for me that I had an unusually strong immune system, because since I did HepC education I knew that only 10-15% of the population did that. I don't know if anyone has done research on people who rarely get sick, let alone correlate it with autoimmune conditions!

I guess they don't know all they could about autoimmune responses. I know I heard years ago that looking for a cure for AIDS took researchers into some very basic for lack of a better word "how viruses actually work" territory, though I don't know what came of all that research. (except, of course, no real cure).

I'm glad you have thought about it too, MD, and excited you are going to look into it further; you stand a far better chance than me of actually making sense of what you read!

How cool would it be if some idle reflection by me on TuD led to a cure for Diabetes!! Yeah, now I'm being grandiose as hell. Back in the day when we were losing so many people to AIDS I dreamed of being the one to find a cure. (Ignoring the fact that I have no knowledge or talent for science!)

Yes definitely let me/us know what you find!