Can You Name These Immune System Diseases From a Medical Textbook Description?



By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

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About This Quiz

There are somewhere around 100 autoimmune diseases that have been identified to date, and none of them are pleasant. Some, like psoriasis and diabetes, affect mass numbers of people. Others are so rare that only a handful of people in the world have ever been diagnosed with them. What these diseases all have in common is that your immune system is not working the way it should and has turned against you, targeting specific parts of your body as though they were foreign invaders. It can be a painful ordeal, and for many people, it will be a lifelong one. 

Some of these immune conditions can be managed with things like NSAIDs, which can reduce symptoms, or immunosuppressants that may leave you vulnerable to other diseases. In many cases, something like a simple steroid treatment can get you right as rain, but in other cases, the prognosis can be much, much worse. And the worst part is that many of these conditions seem to have no known cause whatsoever, so predicting them is all but impossible. The best you can do is arm yourself with information, and in that spirit, let's find out how many you can identify based on a textbook description of some of these diseases!

Which disease is characterized by a malfunctioning of the adrenal glands resulting in a glucocorticoid hormone deficiency?

Symptoms of Addison's disease usually include weight loss, stomach pain and dehydration. Treatment involves replacing the hormones that are not present with something like an oral steroid.


This condition is a chronic and progressive disease that damages the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. What is it?

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. The myelin sheath is damaged, and that results in faulty nerve fiber conduction, which can lead to nerve death. The symptoms can range from muscle weakness to lack of balance, memory issues and more.


This rare condition is a type of microangiopathy in which blood vessels in the brain, retina and ear are blocked. What is it?

Susac's syndrome sounds simple at first; just some blocked blood vessels. But the symptoms that can result are actually quite unusual. Though rare, some symptoms can include slurred speech, confusion, paranoia, and more.


Which condition is known for overwhelming daytime drowsiness and attacks of sudden and uncontrollable sleep?

Narcolepsy is a chronic condition affecting the brain that results in completely unpredictable sleep attacks. Someone with narcolepsy doesn't sleep more than someone who doesn't have the condition, and it can occur at inopportune moments during any waking activity.


Abnormal proteins build up in tissues and organs as a characteristic of what condition?

There's a protein that can be formed in your bone marrow called amyloid that can build up and deposit in tissue throughout your body. The symptoms depend on what part of the body has the amyloid build-up, but it can go pretty much anywhere, from your tongue to your nerves to your heart.


Which condition is a chronic inflammatory condition that is able to affect almost any organ or system in the body but most noticeably the skin?

Lupus is a very hard condition to properly diagnose because there are four kinds of lupus, and it's able to attack so many parts of the body with so many divergent symptoms, that it's often easily misdiagnosed as a series of other conditions.


Can you name the condition characterized by chronic and painful inflammation in the joints that results in deformity and immobility?

Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 1.5 million Americans and results in severe joint pain and inflammation. Though the symptoms can affect numerous parts of the body, they're most often found in the fingers and wrists.


What condition results from your pancreas being unable to produce enough insulin or any at all?

Over 1 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes, and about 40,000 people are diagnosed every year. Unlike Type 2, which occurs later in life and is often associated with diet, Type 1 occurs earlier and is often called juvenile diabetes. Your immune system attacks your pancreas and renders it unable to produce the insulin needed to regulate blood glucose.


Do you know which condition results from the destruction of the skin's melanocytes and causes depigmented patches of flesh?

Vitiligo is most easily recognizable for the visual symptoms associated with it. The melanocytes in the skin are where pigment is located. When they are destroyed, the skin loses pigment, which results in noticeable and irregular white patches on otherwise darker flesh. This was the condition Michael Jackson said he had.


Which condition is characterized by fatigue, chronic pain, tenderness and stiffness?

Fibromyalgia has a string of symptoms that come along with it, including irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression. It's often slow to be diagnosed because the symptoms are associated with other conditions as well.


Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria causes what condition?

Lyme disease is contracted from deer ticks which will latch on and bite your flesh. If it's not treated it can cause issues with joint pain, memory loss, and shooting pains in the extremities like your arms and legs.


What's it called when the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows somewhere else?

Endometriosis affects up to 10% of all women, but the numbers are rather hard to pin down as some will never experience any definite symptoms of the disease. Others will experience intense pelvic pain and infertility.


Which condition is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease marked by irritation of the gastrointestinal tract?

Sometimes called chronic ileitis, Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive tract from the mouth on down, though typically it affects the small intestine. In severe cases, lengths of the intestine will have to be removed.


An inability of the intestines to absorb vitamin B12 and leading to a lowered red blood cell count is known by what name?

Pernicious anemia and anemia are similar but not the same condition. Anemia can be the result of simply not getting enough iron, blood loss, or poor absorption. Pernicious anemia is prompted by your intestine's inability to absorb vitamin B12.


This condition is an acute form of polyneuritis that manifests in the body as muscle weakness and can potentially lead to paralysis. What is it?

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a fairly rare condition that only affects about 1 in 100,000 people. But it can be serious and even fatal in a number of cases if treatment isn't sought right away.


Can you tell us which of these is a chronic disease resulting in inflamed skin lesions covered by silvery patches?

Psoriasis is one of the most common conditions in the world. It affects over 8 million Americans and over 125 million people worldwide. That means that about 2% to 3% of the population has it.


Do you know the name of the disease that occurs when the thyroid gland becomes overactive and causes swelling in the neck?

Graves' disease is characterized by hyperthyroidism which, unlike hypothyroidism, is an excess of hormones. It's also called toxic diffuse goiter and though it has a number of symptoms, one of the most obvious is bulging eyes.


Which condition involves the immune system attacking the thyroid gland, which results in hypothyroidism?

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is named for Hakaru Hashimoto, a physician from Japan who first identified the condition in 1912. It wasn't until 1957 that it was officially recognized as an autoimmune disease and also the first one ever that was organ-specific.


This condition is characterized by the inflammation of blood vessels. What is it?

Vasculitis can have a number of causes, including an autoimmune deficiency. In that event, your blood vessels are attacked by your immune system, and it can affect arteries, veins, or more. Steroids are often the normal treatment.


Which of these is a neuromuscular disorder causing fatigue and muscle exhaustion?

Myasthenia gravis means "grave muscle weakness" in English and lives up to the name. Your immune system attacks your nerves and results in interference between nerves and muscles. This can affect the eyes and muscles in the face or any muscle in the body, causing them to fatigue quickly.


Do you know which of these is a condition affecting young children that results in glandular swelling, rashes and potential heart damage?

It's extremely rare for someone over the age of 5 to contract Kawasaki disease. In general, it only affects a small percentage of children, except in Japan where it's about twice as common as it is anywhere else in the world.


What's the digestive disorder that damages your small intestine when you ingest gluten?

The gluten-free push in modern eating is fueled, in part, by celiac disease. It's estimated that about 1 in 100 people actually have celiac disease, which is a remarkably high number compared to most other immune conditions.


When the white outer wall of the eye becomes inflammed you may have this condition. What is it?

Scleritis is an inflammation of the sclera, hence the name. This can actually be part of any number of other autoimmune conditions, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.


This condition is characterized by progressive muscle stiffness and rigidity. What is it?

Not just a clever name, stiff person syndrome is a condition that can cause not just stiffness and rigidity but extreme pain and sensitivity to touch. It used to be called stiff-man syndrome, but no one likes a sexist disease.


What illness do you have when your immune system creates anti-glomerular basement membrane antibodies?

Goodpasture's syndrome causes your body to create antiglomerular basement membrane antibodies which seek to destroy collagen in your lung or kidney tissue. This can lead to massive kidney failure and bleeding lungs.


Do you know which condition is characterized by granulomas that lead to inflammation?

Sarcoidosis can affect any organ in the body and usually involves tiny granules forming in the tissue. It's not always something that requires treatment, but when it does, a steroid is the most common treatment.


Which condition causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs as a result of persistent uncomfortable sensations?

Arguably one of the weirdest conditions in medicine, there's no definitive cause that anyone can point to for restless leg syndrome. Some medications and conditions can cause it temporarily, and some lifestyle changes can alleviate symptoms.


Can you name the condition characterized by skin discoloration as a result of being exposed to shifts in temperature or emotional state?

The very bizarre Raynaud's phenomenon causes skin color changes as a result of exposure to cold temperatures or extreme emotions. Blood vessels spasm and block blood flow to areas of the body like fingers, ears, nose and toes. The skin will turn white and then blue due to a lack of blood flow.


Infection from the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi causes this condition, which is characterized by damage to the central nervous system. What is it?

Chagas disease comes from a parasite commonly contracted from something known as kissing bugs. Initial symptoms are simple, like fever and swelling, but victims may suffer from serious heart ailments as much as 30 years later.


Neuromuscular junctions are attacked by the immune system disrupting the nerves' ability to send signals to muscles in what disease?

Neuromuscular junctions are where your muscles and nerves connect, and that's where Lambert-Eaton syndrome has its effect. It causes extensive muscle weakness, trouble walking, dry mouth and difficulty breathing and swallowing.


This is a limited form of scleroderma that leads to the formation of scar tissue in the skin and other tissue. What is it?

CREST syndrome is an anagram that stands for calcinosis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, esophageal dysfunction, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasia. You can see why they choose to shorten it.


Which condition causes excessive dryness in the mucous membranes of the mouth and eyes?

Sjogren's syndrome seems to affect about 10 times as many women as it does men and usually sets in during middle age. The primary symptoms are dry mouth and dry eyes, though overall dry skin, cough, numbness and joint paint may also be present.


What condition is characterized by the production of antibodies that attack red blood cells and platelets?

Evans syndrome is an extremely rare condition and must be diagnosed via a blood test. Symptoms are very much like anemia and can include lightheadedness, fatigue, pale skin and extensive bruising.


Do you know which illness is defined by severe inflammation of the eyes as well as hearing loss?

Like any autoimmune disease, Cogan's syndrome is the result of your immune system producing antibodies that attack healthy tissue, in this case, your eyes and ears. Steroids and immunosuppressants can be used to treat it. If it goes untreated, it could lead to deafness and blindness.


This condition is characterized by inflammation of the pericardium. What is it?

Dressler's syndrome is thought to be an immune response that your body produces after your heart tissue gets damaged by something like a heart attack or surgery. It's less common these days now that heart attack treatment is better than it used to be.


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