I wouldn’t have even batted an eye 13 years ago if someone had said I should be concerned about autoimmune disease. It didn’t matter that my extended family members had Type 1 Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis. I was in my mid-20s and had my whole life ahead of me.
The first time I should have become concerned was when Emma was diagnosed with celiac disease 12 years ago. Celiac is an autoimmune disorder. But…it didn’t really kick in then either.
But then my brother was diagnosed with celiac in 2008. Maybe it started ringing a bell. Now we have Rheumatoid Arthritis in my close family. FINALLY it hits me. I am at risk.
A recent story in the Utah-based Standard-Examiner says I am not alone. “There has been an unexplainable increase in incidents of celiac disease, lupus and Type 1 diabetes, ” Virginia T. Ladd, president and executive director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association told the newspaper.
Rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes were both mentioned with specific increases in new cases. Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions are doing research on autoimmune diseases and it reports the National Institutes for Health reports “…at least 80 human diseases are caused by primarily or secondarily by an autoimmune response. New diseases are being added to the list frequently.” That’s disturbing.
Why is Autoimmune Disease Increasing?
It appears so far that it is two factors: your genes and your environment. Clearly I have little control over whether I get an autoimmune disorder based on my genes, but what about those environmental factors. Ladd of the AARDA says obesity and cigarette smoking, for example, are two risk factors in developing rheumatoid arthritis.
Johns Hopkins website says, “It seems likely that environmental factors acting with the genetic predisposition of the patient are responsible for triggering autoimmune disease. A few such triggers have been identified…infections can be followed by an autoimmune disease in a few instances such as rheumatic fever followed by a streptococcal infection. A great deal of circumstantial evidence suggests that viruses may play a role in initiating some autoimmune diseases. In most cases…we do not have clear evidence of a particular environmental trigger of autoimmune disease.”
Emma’s celiac disease definitely was triggered by a virus. She was sick with a respiratory bug for 3 months before shaking it, only to have her start in with the vomiting and diarrhea of celiac disease.
How can you Prevent an Autoimmune Disease from happening?
Unfortunately, there don’t appear to be any firm answers on that yet. There is a government committee looking into that and supporting research in that area now. It is called the Cooperative Study Group for Autoimmune Disease Prevention.
But that doesn’t help you or I now…in this moment.
It appears there is very little that can be done to avoid getting an autoimmune disease. In the meantime, I will try to maintain a healthy diet (which is a struggle) and continue to exercise (which lately hasn’t been a walk in the park either)….luckily I never smoked cigarettes…so that is a good thing that I don’t have to manage.
For now I guess we can be armed with as much good information on the subject and do our very best to manage it.