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Please do NOT add profiles to this UMBRELLA project for Autoimmune diseases.

Please add profiles to the project in the Cause of Death portal if an Autoimmune disease was the PRIMARY cause of death.

Please add profiles to the specific disease in the Medical Portal otherwise.

Please see this discussion: Cause of Death Projects needed??? if you do not see a project for an Autoimmune Disease(s) which was the Primary cause of death.

Please see this discussion: Autoimmune Disease Project needs Discussion if you do not see a project for any other Autoimmune Disease project needs, questions or concerns.

In the Cause of Death (CoD) portal there are currently projects for:

  • Anemia is an independent project in the CoD portal
  • Diabetes is an independent project in the CoD portal
  • Multiple Sclerosis is found after the Neurological Disorders/Diseases projects in the CoD portal
  • Myasthenia Gravis is an independent project in CoD portal
  • Rheumatism is an independent project in the CoD portal
  • Vasculitis is found under Cardiovascular disorders in the CoD portal

There are more than 100 Autoimmune diseases according to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association (AARDA).

Are autoimmune diseases fatal?

  • In some cases, severe autoimmune diseases—especially those affecting the kidneys, lungs, blood vessels and other vital organs—can be fatal.

The body's immune system protects a person from disease and infection. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake. A person may have more than one autoimmune disorder at the same time or it can affect many parts of the body.

There are more than 100 types of autoimmune diseases, and some have similar symptoms. This makes it hard for your health care provider to know if you really have one of these diseases, and if so, which one. Getting a diagnosis can be frustrating and stressful. Often, the first symptoms are fatigue, muscle aches and a low fever. The classic sign of an autoimmune disease is inflammation, which can cause redness, heat, pain and swelling.

The cause is generally unknown. Some autoimmune diseases such as lupus run in families, and certain cases may be triggered by infections or other environmental factors.

Some common diseases that are generally considered autoimmune include:

  • celiac disease, diabetes mellitus type 1, Graves' disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis; Inflammatory bowel disease, Addison’s disease, Myasthenia gravis, Vasculitis, and Pernicious anemia


Traditionally it was believed that the immune system was unable to react against the body's own tissues, a concept described by the German immunologist Paul Ehrlich as "horror autotoxicus". In 1904 this theory was challenged by the discovery of a substance in the serum of patients with paroxysmal cold hemoglobinuria that reacted with red blood cells.

The first estimate of US prevalence for autoimmune diseases as a group was published in 1997 by Jacobson, et al. They reported US prevalence to be around 9 million, applying prevalence estimates for 24 diseases to a US population of 279 million. Jacobson's work was updated by Hayter & Cook in 2012. This study used Witebsky's postulates, as revised by Rose & Bona, to extend the list to 81 diseases and estimated overall cumulative US prevalence for the 81 autoimmune diseases at 5.0%, with 3.0% for males and 7.1% for females. The estimated community prevalence, which takes into account the observation that many people have more than one autoimmune disease, was 4.5% overall, with 2.7% for males and 6.4% for females.

An autoimmune disorder may result in:

  • The destruction of body tissue
  • Abnormal growth of an organ
  • Changes in organ function

An autoimmune disorder may affect one or more organ or tissue types. Areas often affected by autoimmune disorders include:

  • Blood vessels
  • Connective tissues
  • Endocrine glands such as the thyroid or pancreas
  • Joints
  • Muscles
  • Red blood cells
  • Skin

Statistics & Mortality:

  • There are many autoimmune diseases with symptoms that range from mild rashes to life-threatening conditions that attack major organ systems.
  • About 24 million (7%) people in the United States are affected by an autoimmune disease. Women are more commonly affected than men. Often they start during adulthood. The first autoimmune diseases were described in the early 1900s.
  • In a study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, from the 80 types of autoimmune diseases, there are 4 types that are dangerous and can cause death. (Medical Daily - The 4 Deadliest Autoimmune Disorders: Signs you need to know)
    • 1) Graves Disease
      • The disease attacks the thyroid gland and causing excessive activity in the gland. You can recognize the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, eye diseases, and skin problems.
      • If Graves' disease isn't treated, it can lead to life-threatening complications. Everyday Health reported that these health issues include complications of heart disease, thyroid storm is causing abnormal heart rhythms, as well as osteoporosis.
    • 2) Giant cell myocarditis
      • A study in New Jersey in 2000 mentions that the symptoms of this disease are swelling in the area of the foot, chest pain, palpitations, excessive fatigue and shortness of breath.
    • 3) Addison’s disease
      • The immune system attacks the adrenal glands, so many hormones that are produced are not in place. The result is muscle weakness, drop in heart rate and blood pressure, tiredness, and dark skin.
    • 4) Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
      • It is a disease that triggers inflammation in the blood vessels, so that the patient will bleed when coughing, when urinating, easy bruising, fatigue, and fever.
  • Autoimmune disease, when taken as a whole, is the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. & It’s been doubling every 15 years for the past 75 years.
  • Autoimmune diseases are a leading cause of death among females in England and Wales, but their collective impact remains hidden in current disease classification systems.
  • Autoimmune disease is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in female children and women in all age groups up to 64 years of age.
  • Women - particularly African-American, Hispanic-American, and Native-American women - have a higher risk for some autoimmune diseases.
  • Autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes are among the leading causes of death among women under age 65, according to a study published in a public health journal in America in 2000. It is safe to assume that our rates are similar in NZ and Australia. (American Journal of Public Health September, 2000;90:1463-1466)
  • Death from systemic autoimmune diseases may be associated with occupational exposures encountered in farming and industry. (ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATISM, Vol. 56, No. 10, October 2007, pp 3189–3201 DOI 10.1002/art.22880. © 2007, American College of Rheumatology. Systemic Autoimmune Disease Mortality and Occupational Exposures. By: LS Gold, MH Ward, M Dosemeci & AJ De Roos.)

Notables who died from Autoimmune disease:

  1. Wikipedia - Deaths from autoimmune disease (site last edited 30 Mar 2015) Diseases listed:
  • Addison’s disease (4),
  • anaphylaxis (5),
  • arthritis (12),
  • diabetes (494),
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) (18),
  • multiple sclerosis (68),
  • myasthenia gravis (7),
  • pernicious anemia (16),
  • scleroderma (3),
  • vasculitis (6)

References & Additional Reading: