As May is National Women’s Health Month, it’s a good time to be aware of autoimmune disorders and how they can impact women.
- Autoimmune disorders appear to be on the rise in the U.S.
- Women make up an overwhelming majority of the diagnoses, as 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
- Hair loss
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Skin rash
- Swelling or redness
- These symptoms, in addition to tests and a physical exam, are used by health care providers 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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