Over the last two weeks the Web has been abuzz with questions about Lady Gaga’s health. Turns out, we are informed, that she has a family history of lupus and has tested borderline positive for the disease.
The Lady Gaga story underlines an important message for millions of other Americans who have a history of autoimmune disease in their families. According to Virginia Ladd, President and Executive Director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) “Lupus is one of more than 100 autoimmune diseases and these diseases cluster in families. Having a family member with lupus could mean you are at increased risk for lupus and other autoimmune diseases.
That’s why it’s important, just as Lady Gaga has done, to know your family history, to inform your doctors, and take proactive steps to ensure your future health.
Evidence suggests that people need to take responsibility for their own autoimmune health. An AARDA study of autoimmune patients found that the average time for diagnosis of a serious autoimmune disease is 4.6 years. During that period, the patient typically has seen 4.8 doctors; and 46% of the patients were told initially that they were too concerned about their health or that they were chronic complainers.
One of the factors that makes getting a correct autoimmune disease diagnosis so difficult is that symptoms can vary widely, notably from one disease to another, but even within the same disease. The medical community’s lack of knowledge of autoimmune disease compounds the problem. Even though these diseases share a genetic background and tend to run in families, most health questionnaires at doctors’ offices do not ask whether there is a family history of autoimmune disease.
AARDA has devised an eight-step plan to help people increase their awareness of autoimmune diseases and calculate their Autoimmune Quotient (AQ):
1. Understand that autoimmune disease constitutes a major U.S. health crisis affecting 50 million Americans.
2. Get educated about the 100+ autoimmune diseases.
3. Be aware that autoimmune diseases target women 75% more often than men.
4. Know that autoimmune diseases run in families.
5. Do your own family medical history and inform your physician if you find that you have a history of autoimmune disease.
6. Keep a “symptoms” list if you believe you may have an autoimmune
7. Realize that getting an autoimmune disease diagnosis is often
8. Hold the power to protect your family’s future health and well-being
in your hands – be proactive about your health.
To find out more about autoimmune diseases, or how to calculate your AQ, visit the AARDA Web Site.