Autoimmune Diseases : An Overview

Autoimmune hepatitis

Rheumatoid arthritis

Systemic lupus erythematosus

Hashimoto's thyroiditis

Celiac disease

Sjögren syndrome

Scleroderma

Type 1 diabetes

Lupus erythematosus

Addison's disease

Connective tissue disease

Polymyositis

Vitiligo

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia

Autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome

Alopecia areata

bullous pemphigoid

Several names, one classification: 

Autoimmune Diseases. 

The list is long, and as technology and testing methods advance, it will inevitably grow. 

For the people who suffer from autoimmune diseases, close relatives and friends who may feel helpless, the topic is quite sensitive. This is primarily due to the inability to understand why or how these diseases develop.

For anyone interested in the basic understanding of what an autoimmune disease is, and their effects on the human quality of life, this informative introduction to our continued series will be useful.

What is an autoimmune disease?

An autoimmune disease is any condition in which the body mistakenly attacks itself. These diseases can manifest in cells, tissues, organs, or joints. Depending on how your body is "self-destroying", each classification of disease differs.

 

This begs the question, "Why would a human body, that naturally possesses incredible healing capabilities, mistakenly attack itself?"

Several theories circulate in the medical and research communities as to what may be causes. Unfortunately, the certainties are scarce. 

 

What the professionals do know:

• Autoimmune diseases tend to run in families. 

• Women are the primary sufferers of these diseases. 

• The signs and symptoms vary across a broad spectrum but generally cause fatigue, muscle aches/soreness, and low fever. These symptoms are triggered by the reactive inflammation occurring throughout the body.

• A diagnosis frequently confirms a lifespan of suffering physically & mentally, as well as a daily dosage of pills.

• Once diagnosed, these diseases do not disappear, even though symptoms may come and go, a continuous run of good form would be classified as remission.

• Neither a cure nor common effective treatment exists.

 

What do scientists and researchers believe to be the causes of these diseases? Again, there are no concrete answers, but below are a few factors professionals believe to be possible causes:

• Stress (There is a strong link between persons diagnosed with stress-related illnesses prior to being diagnosed with an autoimmune issue)

• Poor diet, drugs, or alcohol

• Previous physical or chronic injuries

• Exposure to environmental factors

• Exposure to disease, virus, or infection

• Genetics

The topic of autoimmune diseases is vast and can sometimes feel overwhelming to understand. It can be scary to hear those words uttered when you have no idea what they really mean for your life. It is our intention to take some confusion and fear away from this topic, to help you and your loved ones understand and navigate these diseases.

Follow along closely as we explore the topic further in our future Autoimmune Series.

Some notable statistics and information:

  • In the U.S. alone, a 2012 study found that a range between 14.7 million and 32.5 million people are living with autoimmune diseases. These numbers are increasing. 

  • There have been minimum 80 autoimmune diseases that have been officially identified and recognized by healthcare professionals. (See table below)

  • Autoimmune diseases are 1 of the top 10 causes of death in women under the age of 65 in the US.

Exactly how much money is spent on treating Autoimmunity each year in the United States?

  • Over $100 Billion annually. What does this mean?

  • Given the average range of sufferers of autoimmune diseases, it costs around $4,237 per person each year on average to maintain treatment of their respective autoimmune disease or disorder. 

  • Most autoimmune patients are diagnosed as young as 16 years of age and as old as 55 years of age depending on how and when their symptoms begin to manifest. 

  • In the US, with an average lifespan of 78.7 years, 79 years (rounded), the average lifetime cost of autoimmunity on of a person who has been diagnosed at the age of 16 is at a minimum of $266,931. For a person diagnosed at 55, an average cost would be a minimum of $101,688. 

Estimates from the Autoimmune Registry (US Numbers)

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