Currently, autoimmune diseases cannot be cured, but there are numerous ways to treat symptoms and manage the condition so that it doesn’t interfere with a happy, productive lifestyle. At least 80 autoimmune diseases have been discovered by researchers to date. These autoimmune disorders affect more than 24 million Americans.
Autoimmune disorder symptoms can mimic the symptoms of other physical and psychiatric disorders. General practitioners treat your symptoms but do not always get to the source of the symptoms. If a patient has anxiety or depression, they may prescribe an antidepressant medication. Further investigation into the symptoms may reveal rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Lyme disease, Lupus, or another autoimmune disease.
For this reason, getting proper testing for autoimmune diseases is essential.
Seeing a Proper Doctor
Medical doctors spend a decade or more training to treat and heal patients. A portion of their training is dedicated to a specialty area. When dealing with an autoimmune disease, the specialist to visit is trained in the specialty of infectious and rare diseases. They know the most about the various types and symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
Types and Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases
Autoimmune disease specialists know which autoimmune diseases impact Americans. The following is a list of statistics for common diseases:
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) affects 3 million Americans as either Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. Symptoms of IBD are abdominal pain or cramping, diarrhea, anemia, weight changes, fever, dehydration, malnutrition, and fatigue.
- Lupus affects 1.5 million Americans. Lupus can be systemic, cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE), neonatal Lupus, or drug-induced Lupus. Symptoms include a rash that may be shaped like a butterfly, fever, fatigue, joint pain and swelling, muscle pain, hair loss, anxiety, depression, and sensitivity to sunlight.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) affects 1.3 million Americans. Three types are seropositive, seronegative, and juvenile RA. Symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and weakness. Other symptoms include dry mouth, pins and needles sensations, anemia, and fatigue.
- Psoriasis affects more than 8 million people worldwide. Types include plaque psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, and guttate psoriasis. Symptoms include joint pain, rashes, flakiness, peeling, or bumps on the skin. Other symptoms may be depression, dents in fingernails, and itchiness.
- Celiac Disease affects 2 million Americans. It is classified as classic, non-classic, subclinical, refractory, or potential. Symptoms may include pain in the abdomen, chest, or joints. Other symptoms are gastrointestinal issues, cramping, itching, bone loss, and malnutrition.
- Lyme Disease affects more than 300,000 Americans annually. Symptoms include fever, chills, sweats, joint stiffness, and pain. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include facial paralysis, anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.
Many symptoms associated with multiple autoimmune diseases are the same, which is another reason so many doctors misdiagnose symptoms. Specialty doctors use proper testing methods to ensure a proper diagnosis.
Process of Proper Testing For Autoimmune Diseases
Working with the right doctor means starting the testing process with a comprehensive review of symptoms and physical exams. After the assessment, your doctor will order specific biological tests.
Autoimmune disease testing processes should include the following:
- Complete Blood Count (CBC) to test white and red blood cells, hemoglobin, and platelets.
- Blood Enzymes Test to test enzyme levels.
- Blood clotting tests or coagulation panels.
- Lipoprotein panel to test cholesterol levels.
- Basic metabolic panel to learn more about your bones, muscles, and organs.
- C-reactive protein (CRP) to measure protein levels of the liver.
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) measures how fast red blood cells collect in a tube.
- Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) to analyze antibody levels.
Disease-specific tests must also be done. Examples include the anti-double-stranded DNA test for Lupus, PCR or polymerase chain reaction for Lyme disease, and brain or PET imaging for Lyme disease. Serologic tests for antibodies and intestinal biopsies can help detect Celiac disease. Skin biopsies aid in diagnosing psoriasis.
Causes of Autoimmune Diseases
Many factors play a role in changing how your immune system functions. While it should be detecting foreign pathogens and eliminating them from your system, the immune system is mistaking healthy cells and tissues for foreign ones. They attack the good guys, leaving your body vulnerable to illness. The primary factors that contribute to this miscommunication include the following:
- Females have higher rates than males of developing autoimmune diseases.
- Females between 15 and 44 are more likely to develop autoimmune diseases.
- Genetics or family history of autoimmune diseases.
- Living and work environments with adverse factors, such as cigarette smoking, smog, pollution, heavy metals, and chemicals, increase the risk of an autoimmune disease.
- Lifestyle factors affect autoimmune diseases, including diet, exercise, stress, and relationships.
Treatment of Autoimmune Diseases
The results of the tests determine the best treatment plan. If you are working with a doctor who claims antibiotics are the only treatment, it’s time to contact a specialist. Infectious disease doctors have advanced equipment and treatments to help you overcome your disease. For example, someone with Lyme disease benefits from therapeutic apheresis, hyperthermia, and biofilm eradication.
Specific natural oils, supplements, acupuncture, and stress management treat psoriasis. Phototherapy, cryotherapy, and hydrotherapy benefit those with rheumatoid arthritis. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers suppress the immune system, blocking TNF that causes inflammation.
Knowing When to Seek Care Outside the United States
You know your body better than any doctor. If you feel your doctor is not prioritizing your symptoms, it’s time. If you have seen multiple doctors and specialists within the United States or Canada but still feel bad physically, it’s time. It may also be time to seek better help outside of the country.
Seeking care outside the U.S. or Canada doesn’t mean going to any doctor claiming to specialize in autoimmune disease. They must prove they are a leading specialist in the field with excellent references, their contributions to the field, and as a member of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.
A great example of a treatment clinic outside the U.S. and Canada is the Lyme Mexico Clinic. Call them to find out how you can benefit from their services.