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Autoimmune Disorders in Women

As May is National Women’s Health Month, it’s a good time to be aware of autoimmune disorders and also how they can impact women.

Autoimmune Disorders in Women
  • Autoimmune disorders appear to be on the rise in the U.S.
  • Women make up an overwhelming majority of the diagnoses, surprisingly 80% of patients are female.
  • Autoimmune disorders
    • Autoimmune disorders are any condition in which the immune system attacks the body.
    • There are no cures for autoimmune disorders, but treatments may be available, depending on the situation.
    • Some common autoimmune disorders include: Grave’s disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diagnosing autoimmune disorders
    • Many autoimmune disorders have the same early symptoms, and they may flare up or go away during different times. Here are some common symptoms:
  • Achy muscles
  • Low-grade fever
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss 
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Skin rash
  • Swelling or redness
  • Health Care providers use these symptoms, in addition to tests and a physical exam, to aid in the diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder.
    • Since they’re very common, the symptoms alone are not specific enough to be diagnostic. While a professional examination is recommended, it’s important to remember there’s not a single test that can be used to diagnose any one autoimmune disorder.
  • Women are more affected
    • There are no clear answers to why women are predominantly affected by autoimmune disorders, but scientists have some clues: genetics, hormones and pregnancy.

By Dr. Patricia Ferguson, M.D., physician consultant, Senior Health Services, Emergent Holdings, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

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