I can’t believe how many women I’ve met who have told me they have an autoimmune disease. Women account for roughly three-quarters of all diagnoses. In fact, autoimmune diseases affect ~8% of the population, 78% of whom are women. And autoimmune is the third most common category of diseases in the United States after cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Researchers have multiple theories why so many women are struck with these diseases starting with hormones. This has always been my personal theory as I was diagnosed shortly after my second pregnancy. I figured I had put my body through one too many ups and downs.
Alopecia, Grave’s disease, Lupus, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease even type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. So in addition to everything women are dealing with, if she has an autoimmune disease she is dealing with fatigue, painful, stiff or sometimes swollen joints and more. Depending on the disease and severity, the treatments can be everything from over-the-counter drugs to trips to infusion centers.
I’ve had Reiter’s syndrome for almost 20 years. It took a while to diagnose the disease and six months after the diagnosis to find the right combination of medicine. I started off managing the disease with pills, but now I have to give myself an injection of Enbrel once a week. I thought I’d never be able to do that. But a community called Rheumamisfits helped give me the courage. But the medicine makes me feel like the Tin Man with a lube job so it’s worth it. Generally speaking, the disease is manageable except when I have a flare. Then it pretty much sucks because for some reason despite the diagnosis, the doctors usually think the issue is a stress fracture or something that is non-disease related. Right now I’ve got tears in my right elbow that have been causing issues for a year and I’m right-handed. But I won’t let it stop me.
I’ll be speaking on a panel about autoimmune diseases at the 140 Conference this June.
I’ll be speaking on a panel about autoimmune diseases on June 17 as a part of the 140 Conference, which will be all about health, wellness and food. I hope you’ll come to the 140 Conference and join me.
The hashtag to follow the conversation is #140con