Putting Autoimmune Diseases On The Radar: 3 Reasons You Need Testing
Your family doctor is often the first person that might suspect you have an autoimmune disease, but in many cases, autoimmune diseases are not on the radar of doctors in primary care settings. There are several reasons you may want further testing to see if your symptoms are caused by an autoimmune disease.
1. You're Exhausted
Patients know when fatigue or exhaustion are beyond what's normal. They probably have spent months or years blaming everything from an underlying illness to stress. The fatigue associated with an autoimmune disease occurs even if you have sufficient rest. It frequently creeps up hours after you wake up and is unrelenting.
People with autoimmune diseases need naps throughout the day and find caffeine is often ineffective for this level of fatigue. If you are experiencing prolonged episodes of exhaustion, it is time to talk with your doctor. Sometimes the reason is simple, such as low iron. Even anemia should be scrutinized if there is no obvious cause and there have been no changes in your diet because anemia frequently co-occurs with autoimmune diseases.
2. You Hurt
Autoimmune diseases that cause joint pain are often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia. The major difference between fibromyalgia and an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain is where the pain is located. People with fibromyalgia often report widespread pain that tends to occur in or near muscles, like the upper back.
In contrast, autoimmune diseases typically cause pain in and around the joint. The problem may be more apparent if your joints are warm, stiff, or swollen. Although most autoimmune diseases affecting your joints will eventually affect many joints simultaneously, it may not start that way. It is easy to blame osteoarthritis or overuse in the beginning because the problem might only be your knee or hands hurting.
3. You Have Unusual Symptoms
Some autoimmune diseases, especially lupus, easily causes many odd symptoms that do not point in a single direction. Unfortunately, it is easy for patients to be disregarded when they have frequent complaints that do not show up on x-rays or blood work. Frequent illnesses, heart abnormalities, and strange rashes are just some of the unusual symptoms that might eventually point to an autoimmune disease. In many instances, simple blood work to test for anti-nuclear antibodies and rheumatoid factor might reveal the most prevalent autoimmune diseases. There are many instances where a person with an autoimmune disease might not test positive, so it is important to not rely exclusively on blood work for a diagnosis.
Since autoimmune diseases are frequently overlooked or misdiagnosed, it is important to advocate for yourself. Encourage your doctor to perform simple blood work to test for an autoimmune disease.