Myths and Facts About Autoimmune Diseases

Myths and Facts About Autoimmune Diseases

More than 24 million people in the United States are living with an autoimmune disease. A healthy immune system does a good job of protecting you against diseases and infections. In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues and organs. These attacks can affect any part of the body and can range from mild to life-threatening.

At Valerius Medical Group & Research Center in Los Alamitos, California, rheumatologists Nathaniel Neal, MD, and Rebekah Neal-Kraal, MD, specialize in diagnosing and treating autoimmune diseases. There are more than 80 autoimmune diseases, and most require lifelong treatment. 

If you've recently received an autoimmune disease diagnosis, it's empowering to learn more about autoimmune diseases. Keep reading to learn some facts, as well as some common misconceptions about autoimmune diseases.

Myth: Diagnosis takes a long time

The symptoms of autoimmune diseases can mimic those of other illnesses. And while this can make early diagnosis challenging, it isn't impossible to receive the right diagnosis early on. There's a misconception that early diagnosis is uncommon, and that you have to spend years seeking a proper diagnosis.

Many patients first bring up their symptoms with their primary care physician. Your primary care provider is trained in general acute and chronic care. If you suspect that you have an autoimmune disease, or if you have symptoms of an autoimmune disease, it's vital to see a rheumatology specialist. 

Rheumatologists receive special training in detecting and treating autoimmune diseases, also known as rheumatic diseases. A rheumatologist will have the knowledge, resources, and tools to provide an accurate diagnosis, so you can begin treatment and start feeling better.

Myth: It’s difficult to get better, even with treatment

It's true that there is no cure for most autoimmune diseases, and while finding the right combination of treatments can take some time, most patients are able to lead a good quality of life and keep their symptoms well-managed. 

Having a rheumatology expert in your corner is invaluable. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for autoimmune diseases. Each approach depends on your specific symptoms as well as your lifestyle, overall health, and what works best for you. Common treatments for autoimmune diseases include:

With the right combination of treatment and lifestyle changes, you can feel better and enjoy life. 

Myth: I can’t get pregnant if I have an autoimmune disease

While certain autoimmune diseases are associated with a higher risk of complications, many women with autoimmune diseases have healthy pregnancies. In fact, some autoimmune diseases ease up and get better during pregnancy.

If you have an autoimmune disease and are planning to get pregnant, discuss it with your rheumatologist. Your provider will review any risks with you, take the proper precautions, make any appropriate tweaks to your treatment, and follow you closely throughout your pregnancy.

Myth: Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are autoimmune diseases

It's a common misconception that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia are autoimmune diseases, because symptoms can be similar.

For instance, CFS often causes weakness, fatigue, lethargy, and problems concentrating. And fibromyalgia often causes pain and tenderness in different parts of the body as well as fatigue, sleep problems, and morning stiffness.

Patients with autoimmune diseases commonly experience these types of symptoms as well. However, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are not classified as autoimmune diseases.

Get the care you need

An autoimmune disease diagnosis can be distressing. It’s essential to learn about your particular condition and build a strong collaborative relationship with a rheumatology specialist to best manage your care.

For more information on our patient-centered approach to treating autoimmune diseases, call 562-294-6533 to book an appointment with Valerius Medical Group & Research Center today.

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