Polyglandular autoimmune syndromes

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Polyglandular autoimmune syndromes

Question

What can you tell me about polyglandular autoimmune syndromes?

Judy
Tennessee

Answer

Polyglandular autoimmune syndromes (PAS) are a group of disorders in which multiple endocrine glands secrete insufficient or excess amounts of hormones. The cause of PAS isn't known, but genetics may play a role. Endocrine glands include the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands, the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas, and the ovaries and testes.

In polyglandular autoimmune syndromes, the immune system mistakenly attacks the endocrine system. Signs and symptoms depend on which glands are affected. A doctor may make a diagnosis by blood tests, which measure hormone output by the affected glands. There is no cure for these syndromes. Treatment is directed at managing the signs and symptoms and usually includes hormone replacement therapy.

Type of polyglandular autoimmune syndrome People it typically affects Characteristics of the disease
Type I Children, usually around age 12
  • Underactive parathyroid glands (hypoparathyroidism)
  • Underactive adrenal glands (Addison's disease)
  • Chronic yeast infections
Type II (formerly known as Schmidt's syndrome) Usually women, around age 30
  • Underactive adrenal glands
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Type 1 diabetes
Type III (likely a variant of Type II) Usually women, around age 30
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Other autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, premature menopause, pernicious anemia, alopecia, vitiligo, celiac disease and myasthenia gravis

Endocrine system

Illustration of endocrine system

Your endocrine system consists of glands, which produce hormones that regulate processes throughout your body. The endocrine system includes the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries (in females) and testicles (in men).

Last Updated: 08/16/2006
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