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Autoimmune Disease and Migraine

Outside of work, I feel as if I’ve been keeping to myself a little more lately. It’s fair to say that working long, hard hours at my own business are wearing me down and causing me to have more need than usual to rest, but that’s not the only reason I have been a homebody outside of the bookshop this fall and winter.

Confession time: I have been feeling so, so crappy! It’s true that in the fall I had my to-be-expected bout of back-to-back migraine episodes and that sapped my energy, but something more is afoot.

Many of us migraineurs know that there are many, many other illnesses, syndromes, and conditions that are concomitant with migraine—in laymen’s terms, people with migraine sometimes tend to have other health conditions too, and you’ll find many migraineurs who share your second and third diagnoses with you.

For years I’ve known that my immune system doesn’t function as it should, but I ploughed on anyhow, taking great care of myself and making sure to eat and exercise well (at times, at least). During my healthy times, I thought for sure my immune system was back up to snuff and that maybe all those perceived health issues were just a matter of getting back into shape.

But now I suspect different, and, based on a lab test I had recently, my doctors have referred me to a rheumatologist for the first time, as my symptoms and the lab results indicate a possible connective tissue disease. I have been completely run down, sleeping without ever waking up refreshed, dealing with back pain, coping with muscle cramps, waking with puffy eyes, and on and on and on for months now. When I told my primary care doctor that I was nervous to get a “scary diagnosis,” she pointed out that she saw the upcoming rheumatology appointment as a step in the right direction—maybe a diagnosis will “unify all my symptoms.”

Fingers crossed I will continue to have positive people (including myself) on my side as I begin what could be a long diagnosis journey. First appointment is at the end of January. Until then: I’m tired. And: “ow.”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • elleturner
    7 years ago

    Hi there,

    So sorry to hear you are feeling badly. Just before Christmas 2011 I started to feel really exhausted and nauseated. I went for my annual exam with my PCP and related to her how terrible I felt, and that my sister had just been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid. She ordered a bunch of blood tests, and when they came back she referred me to an endocrinologist. Turned out I too have Hashimoto’s. Several months into my treatment I still wasn’t feeling well and my endocrinologist indicated that he thought something more was going on and referred me back to my PCP. She ran more blood tests and referred me to a rheumatologist for confirmation of a fibromyalgia diagnosis. So now I have been diagnosed with three chronic illnesses and lost my job and medical insurance due to my illnesses, but I am grateful that I did not have a “scary” diagnosis that could be fatal. I wish you luck and hope you feel better soon.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    7 years ago

    Hey there Janet,

    A bit early to welcome you to the wonderful world of autoimmune wackiness – our numbers continue to rise. Good old ‘connective tissue’ something, many to choose from! Hang in there sweetie, we are here for you!

  • sheri2u2
    7 years ago

    Ellen, thank you for your post. I can completely relate to your “scary diagnosis”. With so many migrainers, including me, having a multitude of other symptoms I often wonder if something else isn’t going on. What peace of mind it would be to know,”yes how you are feeling is caused by not only migraines but…..” I somethings wonder if the stress of not only migraines and all that goes with them and worrying about what else might be wrong doesn’t contribute to the migraine itself. Thanks for sharing and making me feel a little less crazy.

  • Amanda Ferguson
    7 years ago

    I have Endometriosis which some reports classify as an autoimmune disease as well as Migraines. I have always said I have no immune system, I catch everything and it takes me longer to fight them off then others. The whole house gets the flu I am the one in the ER getting IV fluids. I would love to see more research on this subject.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Amanda – Endometriosis is a frequently comorbid condition, and one I hope we’ll be writing about in more detail soon. Thanks for bringing it up!

  • Michelle
    7 years ago

    I’m sorry to hear this. I wish you the best and hope all your questions are answered.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Janet – I’m distressed to know that you might be joining the masses that deal with autoimmunity (including myself) but like your doctor also hope that maybe once a problem can be named it can be dealt with. Autoimmune disease – as you know – is an inflammatory process, which can greatly affect our Migraine problems. You know I’ll always be here for you!

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