Autoimmune Diseases

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About This Site

Hello, my name is Lizzy Johnson and I have been dealing with an WP_000358autoimmune disease since I was 18 years old. Over the last few years I have developed a sound knowledge about some of these diseases, mostly through my own experiences, but also from talking to other sufferers, plus carrying out some reading and research at my local medical library.

I have put together this site to help other autoimmune disease sufferers learn to cope with every day life when you have an autoimmune disease that makes you feel rotten on the inside but look the picture of good health on the outside.

I have no medical training; I merely wish to provide tips and advice about how you may be able to improve your way of life with coping strategies. I will also provide suggestions on questions you may wish to ask your consultant and/or doctor for those of you that have only recently been diagnosed, or do not feel supported by your GP.

If after reading this site you think you may have an autoimmune disease, then you must go and see your doctor to discuss the matter. They will be able to advise and guide you properly; most importantly they will be able to provide their medical opinion on whether you actually have a condition, followed by relevant and/or necessary treatment.

 What Is An Autoimmune Disease

The immune system covers every part of the body, with the aim of detecting and fighting foreign invaders. These can be learnt invaders from the past, such as Chicken Pox and vaccinations; or new invaders that the immune system does not recognise.

An autoimmune disease is where the immune system begins to think that the healthy organs, systems and substances in the body are invaders and begins to attack them. The immune system is unlikely to attack the whole body all at once, it usually begins to attack a certain organ or system, sometimes spreading to multiple parts of the body.

Many autoimmune diseases begin with small insignificant symptoms that you may just shrug off; but these symptoms may slowly get worse until you reach a point where you feel it is necessary to go and see your doctor.

 List Of Most Common Autoimmune Diseases

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
Sjogren’s Syndrome (SS)
Graves Disease
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Type 1 Diabetes
Antiphospholipid Syndrome (Sticky Blood)
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FM)

Can You Have More Than One Autoimmune Disease?

It is possible to have more than one autoimmune disease. You tend to find that certain autoimmune diseases commonly occur together. Below you will find a list of common clusters of autoimmune diseases. I was first diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus), followed by Thyroid Disease and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Lupus

Sjogren’s Syndrome
Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Antiphospholipid Syndrome
Thyroid Disease

 Thyroid Disease

Lupus
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Myasthenia Gravis
Type 1 Diabetes
Vitiligo
Alopecia Areata
Pernicious Anemia
Addison’s Disease
Premature Ovarian Failure
Celiac Disease
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis

 Scleroderma

Sjogren’s Syndrome
Lupus
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Polymyositis

Sjogren’s Syndrome

Lupus
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
Grave’s Disease
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
Autoimmune Hepatitis
Multiple Sclerosis
Scleroderma
Myasthenia Gravis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Thyroid Disease
Sjogren’s Syndrome
Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Psoriatic Arthritis
Giant Cell Arthritis
Pericarditis and Endocarditis
Autoimmune Premature Ovarian Failure

 Type 1 Diabetes

Vitiligo
Alopecia Areata
Myasthenia Gravis
Pernicious Anemia
Addison’s Disease
Premature Ovarian Failure
Celiac Disease

 Celiac Disease

Pernicious Anemia
Myasthenia Gravis
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
Type 1 Diabetes
Thyroid Disease
Sjogren’s Syndrome

 Antiphospholipid

Lupus
Raynaud’s Phenomenon
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Immune Thrombocytopenia Purpura

What Doctors Do Not Have Time To Discuss About Autoimmune Diseases

Many doctor consultations are between ten and twenty minutes long, this is most likely to be taken up with discussions of new and old symptoms and writing a prescription. The doctors do not always have time to discuss how the disease is impacting on your life and offering advice on how to deal with these issues.

There is also not always time to think up questions you may wish to ask, so always be prepared in advance, and be aware that there may not be time to answer all the questions you have prepared.

Autoimmune diseases can impact on your life in several different ways and some of these can be severely debilitating. Depression, anxiety, extreme tiredness, constant pain, weight gain, weight loss and loneliness are some of the ways that this kind of illness can impact on your life. Your doctor may not realise you are having issues in these areas so may not think to ask you, consultations will generally cover physical symptoms relating directly to your condition.

There is much unpredictability of how you will feel each day with your symptoms. Learning coping strategies is very important, it is necessary to making sure you have a good nights sleep, learn to pace yourself and recognise factors that trigger or make your symptoms worse.

How My Autoimmune Diseases Affected My Family And I

When I was first diagnosed with Lupus it never occurred to me that I could have more than one autoimmune disease, or what sort of impact it would have on my life.

It is not just me who has to deal with my diseases; my husband and four children are also living through the roller coaster of ups and downs that I experience.

Over the last seven years I have had to deal with: chronic tiredness, hyperactivity, pain, severe depression, severe anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome and lethargy.

The chronic tiredness has meant that my family have had to fend for themselves and miss out on activities. My children have had to miss out on having birthday parties, having a Mum that reads books and plays games with them. When they were young I use to sleep on the settee while they played in the room.

During family holidays I use to sleep wherever I could put my head down, many of our holiday photos have me asleep on the beach or in a deck chair in front of the tent.

Many a time I have slept through collection times for my children and been woken up by a phone call from playgroup or school; sometimes friends would bring them home to me. At this time I did not know I had an autoimmune disease, I think my friends thought I was just lazy and even made fun at how much I use to sleep.

Hyperactivity was perhaps one of the better periods of family life. I played games with my children, took them out on day trips and I spent some good quality time with my husband that was badly needed. I think this was the point at which we communicated the most, this lead to him helping me with my autoimmune diseases, telling me when he thought I was doing too much and encouraging me to seek help from my GP.

My Irritable Bowel has meant that my children have had a very bland diet for many years, as I only wanted to cook one dish at meal times. I had to avoid any foods that had a strong taste such as spices, peppers, herbs and contained eggs as they resulted in me feeling very unwell for hours after consumption. Now that my children have started at University and are able to cook for themselves they are beginning to enjoy a much more varied and exciting diet.

Severe Anxiety and Depression had an enormous impact on my family. My husband did not know what to do, the children were misbehaving at school, and I just did nothing. Eventually my GP prescribed an antidepressant but it took a few years to get one that worked effectively. By this time my husband had lost his job because he could not cope with work, as well as looking after the children and me. This was the worst time ever, we had no money and all of us had different needs that could not be fulfilled.

The Lethargy has been with me now for the last couple of years. Now that my children are away from home I have joined a gym so that I can go swimming and do Tai Chi; things that are not too strenuous. I have found it really hard to keep going, as most of the time I cannot be bothered to do anything. The only reason I have continued is because I do not want to give in to my autoimmune diseases. I know that the Tai Chi has helped with my balance; I can now walk down the road without weaving about, and the swimming has toned my muscles, although I was hoping it would also help me loose some weight but this has not yet happened.

 What Do I want to Achieve

I do not want my autoimmune disease to rule my life, nor my family’s. I wish to share with you some of the ways that I have learnt to cope with my conditions and hope that there are sufferers out there that can benefit from my experiences and advice.

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