When you have Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease (RA or R.A.D), Lupus, MS, Ankylosing Spondylitis or other Inflammatory/Autoimmune Diseases, (basic list at end of post), it’s not uncommon to have multiple, but separate similar… in some cases even completely different unrelated diseases, afflictions or complications that are coincidental, related to or caused by your primary diagnosis… these can even be.. Suprise !!… part of your primary original disease you’d never have thought, would be (those conditions are not technically comorbid because they encompassed as parts of the whole, in one disease, however, so many people are unaware of that and what their disease really encompasses). Complicated? Yes, but bear with me, keep reading and I’ll tell you why I think this is SO important for patients to know.
Unfortunately most medical professionals are either so rushed, crammed schedules, pressured by practices to give you “just the basics”, a skimpy pamphlet that’s scant or outdated information or worse, they are under-educated themselves, uncaring or clueless (yes, I’ve met each kind, heard even more from fellow patients and feel so blessed that I have one of the truly excellent ACR Rheumatology Doctors on the planet), SO… that unless you do a lot of research, join local or online groups, friend patients, organizations or advocates on twitter & facebook, follow blogs etc and LEARN, some people never, ever know about or how to deal with comorbidities.
Called comorbidities or multimorbidities, because of the simultaneous presence of two or MORE chronic diseases or conditions in a patient, but other things like heart, lung, kidney disease, even Fibromyalgia or CRPS (Complex regional pain syndrome), not all technically autoimmune inflammatory conditions but can be similarly terribly painful or life threatening as well, can also be referred to comorbidity/multimorbidity, because inflammatory diseases cause many “other” problems that leave you immune challenged and prone, or are surprisingly, not actual comorbidity but PART of the primary disease.
EG; too many descriptions of R.A.D (Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease) describe it as arthritis of the joints, when it’s in fact an incurable systemic disease affecting your whole body and many organs where your immune system literally attacks the synovial linings in your body (and that’s still very simplistic), but you have to remember, arthritis is JUST a symptom of this complex disease.
In R.A.D. it’s your synovial linings being ravaged by your own body & immune process in overdrive, causing excruciating inflammation, erosion, deformity, pain and even death when a cascade of things go wrong (that’s a partial list). All joints have synovial linings, including the little bones in your ears and vocal chords (why many R.A.D patients get hearing or voice loss, change, breaks or rasps in their voice, especially when flaring or tired), BUT your heart and lungs are also synovial lined ! together with other organs… They get attacked too. This is SO IMPORTANT TO KNOW. Thus, lung & heart disease in RA patients, for instance, is NOT a comorbidity, but part of Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease and needs to be addressed just the same as a non R.A.D person living with heart disease or COPD for instance. Pneumonia, severe asthma and heart disease is frighteningly high and life threatening amongst R.A.D patients and may even be early indicators OF an inflammatory autoimmune disease like R.A.D. This is without adding the added strain of immune suppression therapy which is essential for most Autoimmune Inflammatory Diseases.
This is where the information system is clearly breaking down and hurting patients. Missing information & understanding vitally important info like this (& so much more) and the complication of comorbidity/multimorbidity conditions, is vital to patients to help them and their medical professionals team, understand, treat and be vigilant for potential or life threatening problems. For example, as a multimorbidity person, I have Rheumatoid Autoimmune Disease (main & worst for me), Sjogren’s Syndrome, Graves Disease & Fibromyalgia (with a strong Lupus Marker that hasn’t yet manifested into Lupus).
Knowing about each disease you have FULLY & their unique effects on the body, symptoms to be managed, potential dangers (heart & lung disease of RA for example), treatments and how it may affect other conditions, medications, treatment options and interactions is vital to your health, quality of life and keeping the danger of life threatening cascades of “other” illnesses to a minimum.
Information is power. Empower yourself, research and ask questions. It’s the single best thing you can do for yourself may save your life…. that is something to be grateful for always.
Be well : Stay Strong & Positive !
Find an ACR (American College of Rheumatology) Doctor Click HERE
Basic List of Autoimmune Diseases
What causes autoimmune diseases? That’s a long complicated and mostly unknown topic. Combinations of genetic, environmental, related health, stress and individual trigger factors are thought to be the most likely for most people. EG: you might have a genetic tendency for a disease, then, a combination of factors such as a virus, severe stress, injury, trauma or other health issue may be a trigger to bring the disease out of hibernation or kick it out of a remission you didn’t even know you were in, being unaware or symptomless of a disease you may have.
The BASIC list of diseases that fall into the autoimmune category includes;
- alopecia areata
- autoimmune hemolytic anemia
- autoimmune hepatitis
- diabetes TYPE 1 (not type 2)
- JIA or juvenile idiopathic arthritis (juvenile rheumatoid autoimmune disease)
- Graves’ disease
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura
- myasthenia gravis
- some forms of myocarditis
- multiple sclerosis
- pernicious anemia
- polyarteritis nodosa
- primary biliary cirrhosis
- psoriasis / psoriatic arthritis
- rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid autoimmune disease (R.A.D)
- scleroderma/systemic sclerosis
- Sjögren’s syndrome
- systemic lupus erythematosus
- some forms of thyroiditis
- some forms of uveitis
- granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s)
REF; NIH.gov for above list in part
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