Do You Have an Autoimmune Disease? A Look at Whether Symptoms Such as Fatigue, Weight Changes, and Depression May Point to an Undiagnosed Autoimmune Condition / Thyroid Disease Information Source - Articles/FAQs
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Do You Have an Autoimmune Disease?
A Look at Whether Symptoms Such as Fatigue, Weight Changes, and Depression May Point to an Undiagnosed Autoimmune Condition

by Mary Shomon

After the birth of her second child, Ellen Raymond* found it unusually difficult to lose the baby weight, despite starting a rigorous diet and exercise program. She also found herself forgetting important things, like where she put her car keys, pediatrician appointments, or a scheduled lunch with friends.

Says the usually slim and organized Bethesda, Maryland mother of two, now 41, "I was mystified. I had to write everything down on a calendar in my kitchen, or I would immediately forget it. I was feeling moody. I was eating well, exercising, and not losing a pound. And I slept 10 hours a night. But every afternoon, I had to take a long nap just to get enough energy to get up off the couch and make dinner." According to Raymond, "Most nights, I fell into bed exhausted as soon as the kids were tucked in."

After a doctor dismissed her symptoms as fatigue normal for a busy mother, Raymond sought a second opinion. The second doctor ran blood tests, including thyroid antibody tests, and diagnosed her with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, an autoimmune form of hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid. The doctor prescribed thyroid hormone replacement.

"After a few weeks," says Raymond, "I noticed the difference in my energy and mood, started losing weight again, stopped napping, wasn't forgetting every single appointment or playdate for the kids. I felt so much better. It was a shock that this gland I barely knew existed could have such an impact on my life!"

Raymond's problem, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, is one of the most common autoimmune diseases. "Autoimmune disease" refers to a category of more than 80 chronic illnesses, each very different in nature, that can affect everything from the endocrine glands -- like the thyroid -- to organs like the kidneys, to the digestive system. Underlying all autoimmune conditions is the concept of autoimmunity. Autoimmunity refers to the process by which the immune system gets confused, and rather than protecting organs and cells, turns around and actually attacks those same organs and cells, producing inflammatory reactions and other serious symptoms and diseases.

The Most Common Autoimmune Diseases...

are thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and Graves' Disease, Type 1 Diabetes, and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Other autoimmune or autoimmune-like conditions include Rheumatoid Arthritis, the intestinal and digestive disorders such as Celiac Disease/Gluten Intolerance, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn's Disease, adrenal disorders such as Addison's Disease and Cushing's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Alopecia, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Sjogren's Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia.

Fill out your Autoimmune Checklist now!

Autoimmune diseases predominantly strike women, suffering about 75 percent of all autoimmune diseases .according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. 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 peri-menopause, and after starting the Pill or hormone replacement therapy.

Autoimmune diseases also can run in families. If a close family member has an autoimmune disease, then your risk of developing an autoimmune disease is also somewhat increased.

...having one autoimmune disease increases your risk slightly of developing another autoimmune condition.
Also, having one autoimmune disease increases your risk slightly of developing another autoimmune condition. So, if you have a more common condition such as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, or Lupus, you should familiarize yourself with the symptoms of various autoimmune diseases, so you can monitor your own health, and the health of your family, for evidence of other conditions.

Could You Have An Undiagnosed Autoimmune Disease?

Could your seemingly unrelated or vague symptoms -- such as fatigue, joint/muscle pain, changes in your hair or skin, moodiness or weight fluctuations -- actually be signs of an autoimmune condition? To find out, discover more about autoimmune diseases here, and via other resources we've identified to help.

Start by reading the Autoimmune Information Center, a multi-part special feature that looks at autoimmune conditions, their origins, diagnoses and treatments.

Finally, fill out our handy Autoimmune Risks, Symptoms and Conditions Checklist, a detailed list of many of the most common autoimmune disease symptoms and the conditions they may indicate. Take your Autoimmune Checklist to your doctor and use it to open a dialogue that will help you get the proper tests and diagnosis you need.

autobk2.gif - 4232 BytesNext, be sure to read Mary Shomon's book, Living Well With Autoimmune Disease, published October of 2002, which features a comprehensive overview of autoimmune diseases, and detailed information on diagnosis, and conventional/alternative treatments.

* Name changed

Sticking Out Our Necks and this website are Copyright Mary Shomon, 1997-2003. All rights reserved. Mary Shomon, Editor/Webmaster
All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician or health practitioner before starting a new treatment program. Please see our full disclaimer.