Health is important to everyone, and for that very reason it’s crucial to know what’s what when it comes to our physical wellbeing. Autoimmune diseases affect 50 million Americans – that’s roughly one in five people in the United States. Just as with breast cancer, women are more likely to be affected by autoimmune diseases, and AARDA reports that 75 percent of those impacted by them are women.
Sadly, it takes an estimated 4.5 years to diagnose autoimmune diseases, and in the United States they cost $100 billion dollars in health care annually. When it comes to these diseases, African-American, Asian, Native American and Hispanic women are two to three times more likely to develop lupus than white women.
But what exactly are autoimmune diseases? Some of the more common autoimmune diseases include alopecia areata, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, celiac disease, Graves’ disease, and the aforementioned, lupus.
One of the diseases that affects women the most is lupus, an inflammatory disease that attacks healthy cells and tissues in the body. Lupus along with another autoimmune disease called sarcoidosis, a disease that causes the growth of a collection of inflammatory cells, impacts young black women more than it does their white counterparts.
Betty Diamond, MD, Professor and head of the Center for Autoimmune, Musculoskeletal and Hematopoietic Diseases, and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, as well as Virginia Ladd, President and Executive Director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc sat with Madame Noire to dish on what’s what when it comes to autoimmune diseases and women of color.
Diamond and Ladd clarified that not all autoimmune diseases are more common within minority communities, however genetics do play a huge part as to why women of color experience lupus at a higher rate than non-women of color. Just as there are some autoimmune diseases that affect minorities a lot more, there are some diseases that more commonly found in Caucasians and Asians.
There are also a couple of things to look out for when it comes to autoimmune diseases. “Changes in sense of well-being, fevers, fatigue, aches, rashes, etc. The fatigue is usually much more than just being tired and more like being exhausted,” shared Diamond and Ladd.
“The symptoms can come and go over a period so keeping track of symptoms and when and how they interfere with living can help the physician understand the seriousness of the impact on the patient. The patient might not fully disclose the level of fatigue to the physician in fear of being labeled lazy or too concerned with their health,” they continued to reveal.
While these signs are super helpful to get you to a doctor, it is still difficult to come up with a diagnosis because the symptoms may not be persistent nor specific enough to test for autoimmune diseases.
Due to this fact, there is an effort being made to educate primary care physicians on multiple autoimmune diseases in order to properly diagnose a patient before they end up living with an autoimmune disease for much longer than they should have to.
Check-ups are always important for your health and can be beneficial to stay on track with what’s going on inside of your body. If you’re experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, please contact your primary care doctor.
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