An Autoimmune Disease Connection?

One thing you have to know about me, is I’m always on the verge of a new theory. Because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, this whole world of autoimmune diseases has entered my life. Before Rheumatoid Arthritis changed my life, I had two other autoimmune diseases. Necrobiosis lipoidica is a skin disease I developed on my shins. I have one large plaque perpendicular to the other on each shin. People ask me from time to time if I played soccer, or how I got those burns. When I first got this, I was 19 and the skin disease litteraly seemed to happen overnight, and the plaques have grown larger over the years. They have a shiny appearance. This was my first experience of what an autoimmune disease was like. I realized that I only had so much control over my body. The scars were irreversible. I soon got over the strange looking scars on my legs and started wearing shorts again in the hot summers of California. When people asked me about it, I thought about making up some great story about how I ran into a burning building to save a litter of pups. Those ideas were fleeting however and instead, I always found myself telling the truth, that I had a rare skin disease. The word disease scares a lot of people. Some people would look at me with shock or horror, and some would look embarrassed as if they asked me an inappropriate question. Perhaps they had, but I realized that people unless exposed to this type of thing, can often walk with blinders on. Some people are more sensitive, and some are not but I didn’t hold it against them. Perhaps this was my opportunity to show a person that though I was pretty and fit, I too could have a skin disease, and a rare one at that.

Later, in my middle twenties during some of my peek years of stress, I went to my gynecologist complaining of lactating breasts. I was not pregnant. Luckily she was a smart lady and on top of things and she immediately gave me a thyroid test. Sure enough, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. I was pleased to know that a little pill, taken every day would solve the symptoms I was having which ranged from muscle tenderness, weight gain, brain fog, joint pain, and extreme tiredness. I had been making excuses for this and that, thinking not enough sleep, overwork, etc. were the cause of my symptoms. This was an easy fix to a disease that ran in my family, so I wasn’t worried at all and didn’t fixate on the fact that I had a new disorder.

Years later, when my body seemed to become crippled overnight and I discovered I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, autoimmune disease became a topic I brought up more frequently with family and friends. Because of my illnesses, I was paying more attention to other people and what they had, and wondering how these things seemed to come about.

One of the things I can’t help but do is come up with ideas and theories. Two days ago I was thinking about my father’s disease, Parkinson’s. His brother also has Parkinson’s and so I do realize that there’s a family link. I wondered, why was it a man’s disease and why is it that “nearly 79% of autoimmune disease patients in the USA are women”?-Wikipedia

I have always felt that there are a variety of factors that cause autoimmune disease. They involve, toxins, genetics, stress, health, and injuries. There could be more, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind. Rheumatoid Arthritis for example, can be brought on by an injury, infection or bacteria. This is called “reactive arthritis“. I learned this year from Michael J. Fox’s website, that a person who has experienced head trauma has a larger chance of getting Parkinson’s.

Reading some time ago that women consume 4 pounds of lipstick in a lifetime, I started to wonder, were women consuming more toxins than men? Of course, I just looked it up and it turns out it’s 4 to 9 lbs of consumed lipstick. Wow, that’s a lot! If I only consume 4 pounds in a lifetime, that would put me at 1 1/2 pounds consumed so far. By the way, do you know what chemicals you’re eating exactly? Neither do I. I know I should use cosmetics that are safe, but what does that mean really? Not only do women consume lipstick, but they wear perfumes, lotions and other makeup, all forcing our bodies to inhale and absorb more chemicals. I also know of course that women have a variety of other things that make them more susceptible to autoimmune diseases. Offhand, hormones and childbirth are two factors that have direct effect on autoimmune diseases. Basically, anything that causes trauma or puts the body out of balance seems to increase the chances of causing an autoimmune disease. It would be an easy assumption that childbirth in itself is the main reason why women are more likely to get autoimmune diseases. I just don’t want to let lipstick off the hook just yet.

But what about men? Why would Parkinson’s in particular be mostly a man’s disease? Well, here’s my theory….. If women were more susceptible to autoimmune disease because of consumption of toxins as well as hormones, then wouldn’t it make sense that men are more prone to Parkinson’s because of head trauma?

It’s not to say that women can’t experience head trauma, but doesn’t it seem likely that men are more likely to experience head trauma? Boys tend to be rougher at play and in high school many young men become involved in sports like hockey and football. Though women can also become involved in sports, and by the way, women can also get Parkinson’s, it seems possible that Parkinson’s could be mainly a man’s disease because men are more likely to experience a head injury at some point in their life, leaving them more susceptible.

And maybe this theory sounds totally crazy, so correct me if you think I’m wrong. Obviously, there seems to be many factors involving autoimmune disease and this is just one of my many thoughts regarding cause and effect relationship.

6 Responses

  1. Liz,
    That sounds great and I will definitely do that! Thank you so much for your contribution with your nutrition column and for visiting my site. On behalf of all people with thyroid disorders, we appreciate you!
    Take care,

  2. Sarah,

    wow, i can really relate to alot of what you’ve written here. i have autoimmune thyroid disease and am extremely interested in autoimmune disease’s cause and effects on women. i actually write an irreverent nutrition column on easing thyroid disease and autoimmune disease called “How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass”. you might check it out. :) our site is dedicated to love letters and hate letters to our thyroids. maybe you have something you’ve been dying to write to your thyroid? :)


  3. Dear Glenda,

    I feel for you. Unfortunately, most women assume that doctors regularly check your thyroid and they simply don’t. We learned that the hard way. I’m so sorry to hear about your ailments and I hope that this website helps in some way. I have a lot of great links as well, in case you’d like to join a support group. I know for me, a support group has done wonders for my emotional health.
    Best of luck,

  4. Dear Sarah,
    I have just been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. But your thoughts on Autoimmune disease make me wonder. I have had since I have known myself, Polyarthralgia, later on in my teens, I developed arthritis, in my twenties, hay fever, by my mid forties the arthritis had literally eaten away the transverse processes on the left side of my neck, most of my discs in my cervical and lumbar verterbrae. Presently my sacral discs are beginning to bother me. But I have been reading about Hashimoto’s. It probably took about ten to fifteen years for this problem to be diagnosed but now that I am almost sixty, I wonder at the effects it has had on my other hormones as well as my physiological, physical and emotional well being. I myself find it a daunting task to even look at the past and evaluate when and how I felt changes. My hair has grown sparse, my eyebrows are thinning, I have felt since August a kind of malaise which I found it hard to attribute to any specific cause, now I feel good that there is a reason, but would like to save others from the same fate.
    The only thing people over forty can do is, have a complete blood test every year. This would easily pick up any changes in the functions of your body.

    But back to the autoimmunity problem…I suspect that this is the initiator of our problems.
    Do reply glenda

  5. April!

    It is so great to hear from you! Wow, it sounds like you hit the jackpot–health wise! I am soooo happy for you! Dare I say it, it sounds like between the antibiotics and LDN, you healed your body. I really think that’s possible! Keep up the great work and every now and then, please check in with me! I hope your new house is making you happy and that all is well in life!
    yours truly,

  6. Hey Sarah! I was on DS earlier, for the first time in a while, and saw you started this blog. How cool! I never intended to leave DS, it just sort of happened. I guess I had to quit focusing on RA for awhile. I’ve been off all meds, including LDN, since October. I don’t know what has happened, and I am afraid to speculate too much, but I have only had minor twinges of pain since then. I decided that if I really don’t need anything, then why bother. I am hoping that this (dare I say it) remission lasts awhile. I am very glad to hear that you are doing well. I will check in from time to time and I hope you continue to feel good! April

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