Autoimmune diseases are complex and often challenging to diagnose. Diagnosing can take a long time, with patients seeing an average of 4.5 doctors. Many autoimmune disease symptoms are similar and vague, making it hard to get an accurate diagnosis in the early stages. Plus, autoimmune symptoms can go in and out of flare-ups.
When you see a specialist, you must bring a detailed list of symptoms and how long you’ve had them. Having your family health history handy is also a good idea, as some autoimmune diseases run in families. Having a family member with an autoimmune disease may make you more likely to get one yourself, experts say. High-stress levels can also increase your risk of getting one. And being female — about 78% of people who have a severe autoimmune disease are women — is a significant risk factor. If you’re experiencing a sudden or dramatic change in your symptoms, it’s best to see an autoimmune specialist Denver immediately. That includes any pain that doesn’t go away, trouble breathing, or a numbness in your legs or arms. Fatigue is another symptom that can be hard to diagnose because it’s often blamed on stress or ignored altogether by providers. Tell your doctor how fatigue affects you and ask what relieves it.
Autoimmune diseases are challenging to diagnose because many symptoms appear unrelated. Some patients spend years going from one doctor to the next without a diagnosis. The first step to finding a treatment plan is to see a specialist. A primary care physician is often the best starting point; sometimes, the doctor will recommend a rheumatologist or immunologist. Rheumatologists are internists who specialize in rheumatic diseases, including lupus and other chronic inflammatory conditions. They are also trained to recognize and treat autoimmune diseases. Immunologists are scientists who study the causes and mechanisms of autoimmune diseases. They are involved in developing and testing new therapies, which may help to prevent and treat autoimmune diseases. Both specialists will review a patient’s medical history and perform laboratory testing. Lab tests can confirm a diagnosis, assess disease severity, and aid in monitoring disease activity.
In some cases, autoimmune disease symptoms are very similar and may be hard to distinguish. Therefore, experts recommend you write down your symptoms before going to the doctor to provide a complete history. It will help your doctor sort out the various clues to make a diagnosis. A rheumatologist or immunologist may recommend several treatments to reduce inflammation in the affected organs and joints. For example, doctors can prescribe medicine to suppress the immune system, such as corticosteroids. Medications that ease bone, joint, and muscle pain are also available. Medicines that target proteins that cause inflammation, such as TNF blockers, are sometimes prescribed. Many autoimmune diseases can be treated, and symptoms are sometimes relieved, even going into remission. It’s essential to keep in touch with your doctor for regular visits. Keeping up to date with advances in the field of autoimmune disease can help patients feel better and get their symptoms under control.
A primary care doctor may refer you to an immunologist if you’re experiencing muscle or bone pain that can’t be explained. Similarly, your doctor might send you to a rheumatologist if you have autoimmune diseases like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjogren’s syndrome or if you’re concerned you’re developing one of these conditions. You can find immunologists at medical schools, universities, and some hospitals. They specialize in immune disorders and research to understand how the immune system works. Immunologists can diagnose autoimmune diseases by looking at your symptoms and evaluating the results of laboratory tests. They may also take a family history, as some diseases have a genetic component. The tests that immunologists use can confirm a diagnosis, estimate disease severity, and help track disease activity. They can also identify which antibodies are attacking the body. Many of these autoantibodies are present in people who have autoimmune diseases. In addition to testing your blood, immunologists can perform skin and lung tests.