What do you know about autoimmune disorders? Have you ever heard of Reynaud’s Disease? Crohn’s? Lupus? Rheumatoid arthritis? Thyroiditis? Celiac Disease? Multiple Sclerosis? Grave’s Disease? I’m sure some of those names sound familiar to you. I wish the list ended there. However, there are over 100 medical conditions known to be autoimmune in nature. These disorders affect nearly 50 million Americans each year, most of whom are female. What if I told you autoimmunity is one of the TOP TEN causes of fatality in women under 65 years old. Autoimmune disorders as a group (all 100+ disorders together….) are the 4th leading cause of disability in women. FOURTH! According to the NIH, Autoimmune Disorders affect over 23 million people in the US each year. Think about this: heart disease affects 22 million each year.
So what IS an autoimmune disorder and why have you not heard of it? This group of disorders is caused by the bodies’ own immune system, gone awry. The body begins to attack itself (or specific parts of itself) in each of these disorders. Some of the attacks are through known mechanisms and others by mechanisms that we are yet to fully understand. This means that in this day and age, we still can not figure out what actually CAUSES most of these disorders. Crazy, huh?!
We also know that once a person has been diagnosed with one autoimmune disorder, the likelihood that they will have a SECOND or THIRD autoimmune diagnosis, increases. There are clusters of autoimmune disorders that are known to occur together. For example, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis has a high concordance rate with Celiac Disease (the inability to tolerate gluten). Hashimoto’s Disease is a condition where the body makes antibodies which attack the person’s thyroid gland, causing it to slowly lose function over time, eventually causing the thyroid to be inactive. The shape and size of these antibodies that attack the thyroid have been found to be similar to antibodies found to attack the gut in celiac disease. There is also a genetic link prevalent between the two disorders. Similar clusters occur with many other autoimmune disorders.
An autoimmune diagnosis can be not only scary but intimidating. Medically, there is rarely a ‘cure’ for any of these disorders and treatment is usually based on relief of the patient’s symptoms. Meaning, treatment is aimed at making the symptoms less painful or uncomfortable and is NOT aimed at the root cause because, frankly, we still don’t KNOW the root cause of many of these disorders. And if that were not enough, there is not a lot of positive support out there once a diagnosis is made. If you look around online for support after an autoimmune diagnosis you can quickly be drawn into a VERY scary world of chat rooms and health forums that are full of doom, gloom and negativity with very little positive support and healthy help.
So why do patients and friends always look at me in a questioning way when I broach the topic? Often it is because they know very little about autoimmune disorders and have never really heard much about them! It still surprises me since they are so prevalent today (another topic for another blog!)….so I’m here to share and educate you! I am going to start sharing posts on individual autoimmune disorders, ways I have found to manage these conditions and my own personal journey to finding help, health and wellness living with autoimmune disorders.
Yep, you guessed it, I have been going down this road for many years. As I have shared before I have Reynaud’s, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and gluten intolerance. I have also found that many women I have come in contact with who carry at least one diagnosis but are VERY hesitant to talk about it until I bring the topic up and they say “oh my gosh, me too!”. I hope that by starting the conversation we can all share our journey to wellness together and start a community of healthy and positive support!!! I would LOVE to hear YOUR story. If you don’t feel like sharing below, email me at email@example.com. I would NEVER share any details on the blog unless YOU wanted to post about it below or maybe even write a guest post on your journey! Lets do this and start a healthy, inspiring conversation around this topic.