Diagnosing Autoimmune Diseases
Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, MS or Crohn’s disease, can be a challenging journey. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), the average time for diagnosis is 4.5 years and during that period the patient typically has seen four doctors. Getting a correct diagnosis can be made even more complicated because symptoms can flare on and off and vary from one person to another with the same disease. And, since autoimmune diseases can affect multiple organs and systems, their symptoms can be misleading.
It’s important to be an advocate for your health, you can take charge in identifying the cause of your symptoms:
Collect a complete family health history that includes extended family.
Record any symptoms, even if they seem unrelated.
Seek referrals to good physicians. Ask your friends and others for recommendations.
See a specialist who has experience dealing with your most major symptom. For instance, if you have diarrhea, fatigue and abdominal pain, start with a gastroenterologist since those are symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
Get a second, third, or fourth opinion if need be. If your doctor doesn't take your symptoms seriously by telling you they are stress-related or in your head, see another doctor.
Because autoimmune diseases all share a common cause—mistakes made by the body’s immune system—Benaroya Research Institute is working to treat, prevent and ultimately cure all 80. A breakthrough in one disease can lead to progress against them all.
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