It’s estimated that more than 23 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disease. That’s more than 7% of the population. With so many people experiencing these often-debilitating conditions, you’d think that there would be more information available to help. Most people, even those diagnosed with one, don’t really understand what an autoimmune disease is. With there being many different types of afflictions that affect the immune system, and each comes with their own symptoms and complications, it can be hard to wrap your head around this confusing diagnosis.

What is an autoimmune disease?

Simply put, an autoimmune disease is a condition where your immune system mistakes the cells in your body for a foreign invader. They treat these cells as if they were a virus, bacteria, or toxin that it needs to defend you from. In turn, this leads to a variety of symptoms and damage that can be irreversible.

A healthy immune system will only fight off cells from outside your body. Someone with an autoimmune disease will often struggle with other immune system issues because theirs is not functioning properly. So not only will your body attack itself, it won’t be able to recognize viruses and bacteria as easily, making them more susceptible to illness.

What are some of the most common autoimmune diseases?

Many people don’t realize that the #1 autoimmune disease is type 1 diabetes. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriasis, multiple sclerosis (MS), Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and celiac disease all make the list as well. What differentiates these diseases is the cells that the body decides to attack. They cause different symptoms, but all have the same root – a dysfunctional immune system.

 

What are some of the symptoms of autoimmune disease?

The symptoms can be as simple as frequent urination or as complex as migraines, nerve pain, or even blindness. Exhaustion, joint pain, and skin issues are also possible side effects. This variety of symptoms can make it difficult for doctors and health care providers to identify what’s going on. People with celiac disease experience diarrhea and sometimes bloody stools. This is because the body attacks the intestinal wall. With celiac disease, the trigger is gluten. People with this autoimmune disease experience relief when they remove all gluten-containing foods. Since there are different kinds of autoimmune diseases, there are different symptoms that come with each diagnosis.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks nerves resulting in widespread musculoskeletal pain. This pain is often unbearable. It’s difficult to diagnose as there is no specific test for it, although many doctors will use various tests to rule out other causes. They use these ways to identify if the pain is caused by this disease. Stress and viral infections can cause flare-ups of fibromyalgia symptoms. It’s important to create a lifestyle to reduce stress and live a lifestyle to stimulate a healthy immune system.

How can I manage my autoimmune disease?

Under the care of a physician, many people choose a health coach to help them manage daily life. While medications help many of the symptoms, a health coach can help identify lifestyle changes that improve life for people with an autoimmune disease. A health coach helps their clients identify beneficial supplements, stress-relieving activities, self-care routine, appropriate exercises, and so much more. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, discover how a health coach could benefit you today.