More Women Contract Autoimmune Disease

by Gretchen Malik

Autoimmune diseases caused when the body starts attacking itself and numbers indicate that it overwhelmingly strikes women. Autoimmune diseases are also often misdiagnosed. Between 75 percent and 90 percent of those suffering from diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus are women. And autoimmune disease is now the third major category of illness in the United States and many industrialized countries, behind heart disease and cancer. Yet the more than 80 serious chronic illnesses caused when the body's immune system attacks its tissues are not as well known and publicized as heart disease, cancer and infectious diseases.

The reason for autoimmunity as a cause of disease is a relatively new concept - only about 40 years old - and autoimmune diseases can affect any part of the body so symptoms vary enormously, making diagnosis difficult. But there is another reason these diseases are forgotten. Middle-aged women are not fashionable - and they are the main victims.

It's fashionable to talk about young people dying from AIDS or children dying from congential diseases. But it is not fashionable to talk about some woman who can't walk down the hallway or loses her job because of arthritis. Because it's slow and chronic and you don't die, you also don't get the attention. Autoimmune disease is a major women's health issue.

Autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, which causes painful joints; lupus, which can affect any part of the body and is sometime fatal; Graves' disease, which affects the eyes and results from an overactive thyroid; and Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder. All of which are often related to misguided T-cells in white blood cells, which direct the immune system.

All women need to look at autoimmune diseases and push to make the medical community recognize it as a major disease - this is where we will begin to find a cure. If you are a woman with autoimmune disease, or a friend of someone that battles chronic illness, take action, contact your local support organizations and volunteer your services to help rid the world of autoimmune disease.

© Gretchen Malik

Gretchen Malik is the author of "Healthy Women - A Self-Help Guide for Women"