Autoimmune Diseases Co-occurring Within Individuals and Within Families: A Systematic Review

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Autoimmune diseases have been observed to coexist both within individuals and within families. It is unclear whether clinical reports of comorbid autoimmune diseases represent chance findings or true associations. This systematic review evaluates the current level of evidence on the coexistence of selected autoimmune diseases within individuals and families. We reviewed the associations among 4 TH1-associated autoimmune diseases: insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, autoimmune (Hashimoto) thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.


Studies quantifying the coexistence between the selected diseases, published through March 2004, were identified from Medline and Embase searches. Study eligibility was determined on the basis of preestablished criteria, and relevant data were extracted according to a fixed protocol. We determined the prevalence of comorbid autoimmune disease according to index disease and then compiled summary statistics. Heterogeneity among studies was assessed by exact likelihood ratio tests and Monte Carlo inference.


We found 54 studies that met the eligibility criteria. Of these, 52 studies examined the coexistence of disease within individuals and 9 studies examined within-family associations. The majority of studies were uncontrolled and did not account for confounding factors. There was substantial evidence for heterogeneity among studies. Although inconclusive, the data appear to support an increased prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis among patients with rheumatoid arthritis and those with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and an inverse association between rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.


Although the available evidence does not permit firm conclusions regarding comorbidities among the selected autoimmune diseases, results are sufficiently suggestive to warrant further study.

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