The Silent Epidemic: Autoimmune Diseases and Their Impact on Women

Autoimmune diseases are a growing health crisis that has swept through millions across the world. Read more to find out their disposition on women!!

Rajnandini Tiwari
New Update

Picture taken from deposit photos

These diseases, in which the body's immune system attacks healthy cells of that particular body, range in number to more than 80. Another striking feature is that nearly 80% of all sufferers are women. This anomaly between the two genders raises pertinent questions about possible causes and whether there is something faulty with our approach toward research and treatment.

How well do you know auto-immune diseases?

These are diseases in which the very system in place to protect us turns on the body's tissues instead. Examples include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and Thyroid Disorders. The various parts of the body affected by them, coupled with their ability to mimic other diseases, often result in late diagnosis.

The Female Predominance


For many years, the visibly lopsided distribution of autoimmune diseases between the two genders has been a subject of much intrigue among researchers. Exactly why this happens remains unclear, but several theories have come to the fore:

  • Hormonal Influences: Estrogen is a sex hormone known to enhance immune responses, increasing the risk of autoimmunity in women.
  • Genetic Factors: Women have two X chromosomes that could host more immune-related genes compared to men, so this may add up to immune dysfunction.
  • Pregnancy and Fetal Microchimerism: The persistence of fetal cells in a woman's body after pregnancy may lead to immune reactions against those foreign cells and result in autoimmune conditions.
  • Environmental Exposures: Women's increased exposure to some chemicals from personal care products or household cleaners may have an impact on immune function.

The Effect on Women's Lives

Autoimmune diseases are a significant burden on the quality of life for women. Most of the time, these conditions strike during the peak reproductive and career-building years of women's lives. Symptoms like chronic fatigue, pain, and cognitive problems disrupt everyday life, work, and relationships. Unpredictability is one more feature of these conditions which can cause anxiety and depression and hence add to their physical toll.

Challenges to Diagnosis and Treatment

Despite being so pervasive, autoimmune diseases can take years to be properly diagnosed due to their Byzantine symptoms and lack of definitive tests. Deficiencies in medical education further complicate the ability to detect these diseases early and provide appropriate treatment. Although current approaches to intervention concentrate on alleviating symptoms and suppressing the immune system—both with significant side effects—they do not attend to the origin of the disease.


The Way Forward

This devastating impact of autoimmune disease will only be fully addressed by women

  • More Funding for Basic Research: This is very important to unravel the mechanisms of diseases and to create targeted therapies.
  • Improved Diagnostic Tools: If accurate and accessible diagnostics were available, there would be early intervention, hence better outcomes.
  • Gender-Specific Medicine: Women's health education, a very relevant area of knowledge, shall address these paramount concerns that women take up and hence form an integral part of education and practice in medicine.
  • Patient Education and Support: Educating patients on autoimmune diseases will help women recognize symptoms earlier and also advocate better for healthcare.

At every turn, women are faced with different challenges than men when it comes to autoimmune diseases. If we are to go ahead with better prevention, diagnosis, and treatment strategies for these conditions, we must first acknowledge and address those differences so that millions of lives are improved.

Autoimmune diseases