The attack of autoimmune diseases
There is an attack of autoimmune diseases in the United States and worldwide. The increasing prevalence and costs associated with the diagnosis and treatment is a major concern. 50 million Americans have an autoimmune disease. It’s 1 of the top 10 causes of death in women over 65. It’s the 2nd highest cause of chronic illness. There are now over 100 different autoimmune diseases. This has a large impact on expenditures in our healthcare system. The understanding of the cause of autoimmune diseases should be a priority.
Researchers have concluded that the presence of environmental factors such as stress, viruses, bacteria, medications, hormones and toxins can trigger autoimmune diseases in genetically susceptible people.
What is genetically susceptible people? The 1st thing to understand is that there is not one specific gene that causes any chronic illness. There are many genes that are associated with all of the chronic diseases. Early in the discovery of human genetics it was obvious when there was a serious problem usually at birth and in early childhood which was related to 1 or possibly 2 genetic mutations. This is relatively rare. However, the perception of genetic determination was implanted in our consciousness.
The understanding of epigenetics discounts the perception of genetic determination. Epigenetics is a change in our gene expression that occurs where our genes meet the environment. The environment is everything except you. If you have a family history of autoimmune thyroid disease you are susceptible but it is not written in stone that you will get a thyroid disease.
Let me give you some numbers that are the result of politics and our news services.
In 2001 the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases estimates that the annual autoimmune disease treatment cost is greater than $100 billion dollars.
In 2001 the annual cost of treating cancer is $50 billion dollars, one half that of autoimmune diseases.
Research dollars at the National Institutes of Health for autoimmune diseases $591 million dollars.
Research dollars at the National Institute of Health is $6.1 billion dollars, roughly ½ that of autoimmune diseases.
The diagnosis of cancer is very scary. When the public starts to realize that the diagnosis of autoimmune disease is much more prevalent and is life altering as cancer hopefully the research dollars will balance out.
With autoimmune disease our immune system attacks our bodies and depending on your genetic susceptibility different tissues will be affected. Here is a short list of autoimmune diseases and what parts of the body are attacked.
Rheumatoid Arthritis– inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus– skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs.
Celiac Disease– a reaction to gluten that causes damage to the lining of the small intestines.
Pernicious Anemia– a decrease in red blood cells caused by the inability to absorb vitamin B12. This also can because by a lack of B12 in the diet an inflammatory bowel disease.
Vitilgo-white patches of skin caused by a loss of pigmentation.
Scleroderma– connective tissue disease in skin, blood vessels, muscles, and internal organs.
Psoriasis– skin condition that causes redness and irritation as well is thick flaky silver white patches.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease– a group of inflammatory diseases of the colon and small intestines.
Hashimoto’s Disease-inflammation of the thyroid gland
Addison’s Disease-adrenal hormone insufficiency.
Graves’ Disease-overactive thyroid
Sjogren’s Disease-destroys glands that produce tears and saliva and may affect kidneys and lungs.
Type I Diabetes-destruction of the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. This also can be caused by acute illness.
As you can see from the short list autoimmune diseases affect every tissue in the body.
In the coming articles I will discuss the root cause, prevention diagnosis and treatments of autoimmune diseases.
Based on the prevalence of auto immune disease in my patients, chances are there are large number of readers of this blog that have been diagnosed or suspected of having autoimmune disease. I’m sure you know at least 2 or 3 friends that have an auto immune disease.
If you have any questions you can contact me through this blog or you can email me. I’ll be very happy to answer your questions with reliable science-based answers.
The information provided on this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should not use the information in this article for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. You should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise or supplementation program, before taking any medication, or if you have or suspect you might have a health problem.
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