Symptoms can run the gamut: fatigue, exhaustion, joint pain, weight gain, depression, heart palpitations, hair loss, numbness, and more. Not uncommonly, your doctor will prescribe a medication or treatment to match your specific complaint or symptom. What is astonishing though is that it's not as easy as it sounds in the case of autoimmune disease. In 1996, a survey from AARDA (The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association) found that patients with an autoimmune disease visited six doctors over a six-year period before obtaining a correct diagnosis. A new survey in 2001 indicated that the situation improved slightly, with patients seeing four doctors over a course of five years, on average, before being properly diagnosed.
The price you pay
- Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. That's 20 percent of the population or one in five people.
- The AARDA lists 58 specific conditions on its website as autoimmune-related conditions. It is estimated that between 80 and 100 diseases may be autoimmune-related.
- $7.3 billion is spent worldwide on treatments or therapies for autoimmune diseases. 48 percent of that amount is spent on treatments for rheumatoid arthritis alone. By 2006, as new therapies are marketed, especially for psoriasis, the amount is expected to swell to $18.3 billion.
- Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriasis - four of the most common autoimmune diseases - account for 75 percent of the autoimmune drug trials worldwide.
- Americans spend $87 billion each year in total health costs associated with autoimmune diseases.
That's the cost measured in dollars, but the disruption to a person's life as they experience the aforementioned initially ambiguous symptoms is immeasurable. The fear associated with uncertainty and unanswered questions can be the biggest hurdle for someone with an autoimmune disease.
From Mary's own careful, thorough, and highly-praised research, she has written a 475-page comprehensive guide about autoimmune diseases. She begins by explaining the complexities of the immune system in words which are understandable. She explains the most basic fact of an autoimmune disease: that the immune system which normally reacts to invaders, becomes confused and reacts to "self", targeting cells, tissues, and organs of our own bodies.