According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), 50 million Americans — 20 percent of the population, or one in five people — suffer from autoimmune diseases. These diseases predominantly strike women, who suffer about 75 percent of all autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are more common during childbearing years and frequently appear in women who have just had a baby, after periods of high emotional or physical stress or accidents, during periods of hormonal change such as perimenopause, or after starting birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Autoimmune diseases also can run in families. If a close family member has an autoimmune disease, your risk of developing an autoimmune disease — not just the same condition that your family member has — is also somewhat increased.
Having an autoimmune disease also slightly increases your own risk of developing another autoimmune condition. Autoimmune diseases can affect many different areas of the body. There are hundreds of risk factors and symptoms for autoimmune disease, and a closer look at them can help pinpoint and close in on more specific conditions. But across the board for the estimated 100+ autoimmune diseases (AARDA has a detailed list online), there are a number of symptoms that are common to many of the different autoimmune diseases.
Common Autoimmune Diseases:
Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Type 1 diabetes mellitus
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
75% of autoimmunity development is controlled by our environment and only 25% is controlled by our genetics. We know that the three-legged stool of autoimmunity consists of the right genetic predisposition, the triggers, and a leaky gut. Triggers can include food sensitivities, toxins, infections, and stress. All three are required to be present for the autoimmune condition to manifest. Eliminating the triggers and addressing the leaky gut is key to getting an autoimmune disease in remission.
There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disorders, and the diagnosis of each condition varies somewhat. In general, though, the diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder requires a combination of blood tests, a thorough review of your history and symptoms, and a physical examination. The antinuclear antibody test (ANA) is often the first test that doctors use when symptoms suggest an autoimmune disease.
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