Your first symptoms of an autoimmune disease may be general,
such as fatigue, low-grade fever, and difficulty concentrating, making
autoimmune diseases difficult to diagnose at first. You also may feel depressed
and consult a doctor for that.
According to Mary J. Shomon, author of the book Living Well
With Autoimmune Disease: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You ... That You Need to
Know, what ensues after registering these complaints may be an odyssey to
pinpoint which of the almost 60 different autoimmune disorders you might have,
all of which affect the body differently.
Josie Richardson was surprised when her dentist suggested she get braces. Although she'd always been embarrassed by her overlapping teeth, at 46 she'd resigned herself to her imperfect smile. But when the dentist pointed out that it was more than just a cosmetic issue -it's harder to clean between crooked teeth -Richardson, a jewelry designer in Boca Raton, FL, signed on for the mouthful of hardware normally associated with teens. Indeed, soon after, she and her 14-year-old son became a matched pair...
About 50 million Americans -- the vast majority of them women,
especially women of working and childbearing age -- suffer from autoimmune
ailments. Rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, psoriasis, alopecia, lupus,
thyroid disease, Addison's disease, pernicious anemia, celiac disease, multiple
sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barre syndrome -- these are just a few
of the ailments that scientists now think stem from a common phenomenon: the
activation of the body's immune system against the body itself. Also suspected
of having this as a component are chronic fatigue syndrome and
Traits in Common
That such different-seeming diseases as psoriasis and diabetes
could stem from a common cause actually is a relatively new notion, according
to Noel R. Rose, MD, PhD, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology
and pathology at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Back in the early
days of the last century, he says, the idea took hold that if the immune system
were to benefit us, it would have to be warding off foreign invaders from
outside the body.
Now, scientists know that the immune system is a set of actions
and reactions that can be triggered by a number of things besides an invading
germ, virus, or bacteria. One thing that puts you at risk for being attacked by
your own immune system is your genetics, says Rose. In other words, if your
parents have a predisposition to autoimmune disease, you may, too. "And
it's an overlapping inheritance," Rose says. "If you have one
autoimmune disease, you may have more -- and you may have different ones than
your parent did (or your siblings do)."