The National Institutes of Health estimates that 23.5 million Americans are affected by an autoimmune disease, while the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association quotes 50 million. One reason for the different statistics is how many types of diseases are included in the data counts. But, bottom line, this category of diseases impacts a lot of people.
So what exactly is an autoimmune disease? For clarity, the immune system is a network of special cells and organs that protect the body from disease and infection. Typically, the body can tell the difference between what’s you and what’s foreign. But with an autoimmune disease, there’s a glitch and your body can’t tell the difference, so it makes antibodies that attack healthy cells by mistake.
If you think you might have an autoimmune disease, the first step is to share your symptoms with your general practitioner. They will refer you to a specialist, and you can start the journey to finding a diagnosis. Be open and honest with your physicians and urge them talk to each other about your symptoms. It may not be simple, but getting the right treatment can help improve the quality of your life.