A group of Italian researchers based out of Sapienza University in Rome have discovered a link between endometriosis and several common autoimmune diseases.
According to the Endometriosis Foundation of America, endometriosis is a menstruation-related disease that primarily affects women in their reproductive years. The disease occurs when tissue similar to the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) migrates outside of the womb, where it shouldn’t be. This results in a variety of symptoms, including inflammation, severe cramping and pain, long, heavy periods, and infertility. It can also cause other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, bowel and urinary disorders, chronic fatigue and pain during sexual activity.
The exact cause of endometriosis is poorly understood. While many theories have been suggested, this study investigated the prevalence of common autoimmune diseases among Italian women with endometriosis. The study compared 148 women with endometriosis (the case group) to 150 who did not have the condition (the control group). The women in the study ranged from 18-45 years of age, and those who had endometriosis suffered from varying degrees of the disease.
The study found that in the case group, there was a ‘significantly higher’ prevalence of autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), celiac disease, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, as compared to the control group not affected by endometriosis. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), however, was not found to be linked with endometriosis.
The main limitation of this study is the small sample size. Further studies must be done with a larger group in order to prove that autoimmune activity is responsible for the development of endometriosis. However, this study is helpful for physicians to consider the possibility of autoimmune conditions that may be co-occurring in patients with endometriosis.
This blog post is dedicated to Jenni Rempel, a classmate of mine who passed away from endometriosis four years ago. Before she passed away, Jenni produced this video to educate others about this painful disease: Help Me Get My Life Back from Endometriosis.
Girl with Autoimmune Disease Creates Teddy Bears that Hide IV Bags
Ella Casano was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura (ITP) when she was just 7 years old. ITP is known to cause low platelet levels, excessive bruising and bleeding.
Now 12 years old, Ella receives IV infusions every 8 weeks to ease the symptoms of her condition. As part of a class project, she had to come up with a business idea, and, thinking about her experience with IV infusions and how scary the medical equipment can look to children, she came up with the idea of the “Medi-Teddy”, a teddy bear that hides IV bags.
Ella’s family started a GoFundMe page to raise $5,000 to provide 500 Medi-Teddies to kids in need. For more on this story and to learn how you can donate, click here.
British Columbia Mother Sues Over Breast Implant Risks
Samara Bunsko, 28, of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada, is suing breast implant manufacturer Allergan over allegations that her implants caused her to develop various health issues, including hair loss, irregular thyroid and iron levels, headaches, fatigue and cysts.
Samara is the lead plaintiff in two proposed class action lawsuits against breast implant manufacturers, alleging that they did not disclose the risk of developing certain cancers or autoimmune diseases as a result of the implants.
Dr. Jan Tervaert, Director of Rheumatology at the University of Alberta’s School of Medicine, says that research shows that patients with a genetic predisposition for autoimmune disease have the highest risk of developing symptoms. Furthermore, patients who have had implants the longest are the least likely to experience a cessation in their symptoms once the implants are removed.
Health Canada is conducting a safety review of systemic symptoms caused by breast implants, including the development of autoimmune conditions. To learn more, click here.
Woman Describes her Experience with Multiple Autoimmune Diseases
Amy Hoey was a young teen when she began to experience a myriad of symptoms, including severely dry skin and body aches. She was told by professionals that she was likely just experiencing eczema and growing pains, when in fact, she had an autoimmune condition called psoriasis. Psoriasis can affect the joints and develop into psoriatic arthritis, which is what happened to Amy.
Later, Amy began to experience extreme fatigue, hair loss, kidney infections and chest pain. She went on to receive a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
She started to experience even more symptoms, including a butterfly-shaped rash on her face, mouth ulcers, and memory loss, which lead to the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus. Lupus causes damage to the body’s internal organs, skin and joints.
To top it off, Amy also has celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system damages the small intestine in response to consuming gluten, the protein found in wheat.
Amy felt like she constantly had the flu. Worse still, the physicians she worked with seemed to know little about autoimmune conditions, and one even Googled her conditions in front of her! She also has had allergic reactions to medications used to treat autoimmune disease, and also has a genetic condition that makes her more susceptible to infections, which can be a challenge, since many autoimmune treatments work by suppressing the immune system.
Amy says her best advice is to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. While she had a difficult time accepting this at first, since she used to be an athlete, maintaining a positive attitude and working with a knowledgeable rheumatologist have been helpful for her treatment.
Youth Take On Celiac Disease Through Outreach Program
Last month was Celiac Disease Awareness Month. While Celiac is one of the most common autoimmune diseases, experts at the Seattle Children’s Hospital estimate that for every diagnosis, eight cases are overlooked.
As a result, the hospital has put together an outreach program that allows youth with Celiac disease the opportunity to raise awareness, organize support groups, and mentor other youth with the disease.
There are currently 11 youth members on the Celiac Youth Leadership Council (CYLC), and one of their current initiatives is running a gluten-free food drive for a local food bank.
The most common symptoms of Celiac disease include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, weight loss, nausea, and fatigue. Other symptoms include anemia, joint pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, peripheral neuropathy, seizures, canker sores, skin rashes, fatigue, depression and anxiety. In children, the disease can also cause irritability, stunted growth, delayed puberty, and dental damage.
7-year-old with Rare Autoimmune Disease Needs Life-saving Bone Marrow
Asaya Bullock, a 7-year-old boy from New York, is searching for a donor willing to donate matching bone marrow.
Asaya was born with a rare, life-threatening autoimmune disease called IPEX syndrome. Symptoms include joint pain, body aches, memory loss, fatigue and stomach problems. Doctors said he had two years to live, but, miraculously, he is still alive seven years later.
A bone marrow transplant would greatly help Asaya’s condition; however, since he is of mixed ancestry (part African part Caribbean), finding a matching donor is proving to be a challenge. According to Be the Match, an organization that operates the world’s largest bone marrow registry, the more genetically diverse an individual is, the more difficult it is to find a matching donor.
To learn more about Asaya’s story and how you can join the Be the Match registry, click here.
Australian Woman Describes Her Journey with Multiple Sclerosis
Monique Bolland, 36, from Australia, shares her story living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Bolland was first diagnosed with this incurable autoimmune disease when she was just 22. At the time, she didn’t quite comprehend the severity of her diagnosis.
She says that she first realized how bad her MS symptoms were when she was cutting bread and accidentally cut her hand, but didn’t even notice as a result of the nerve damage and numbness caused by the disease.
MS impacts an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide, and 70% of MS patients are female. Symptoms include impaired motor function, numbness, fatigue, heat sensitivity, optic nerve damage, and more.
Bolland says that living a healthy lifestyle is imperative to managing her MS symptoms. This includes consuming a diet rich in vitamins D, B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, reducing stress and inflammation, and staying active. She also gets monthly injections of Tysabri, an immunosuppressive drug. In addition, she launched a nutrition supplement and health product line called Nuzest with her father, which supports MS research.
Actress Nicole Beharie Exits Show due to Autoimmune Disease
Nicole Beharie, famed actress on Fox’s hit show, Sleepy Hollow, confessed to fans on Instagram that she left the show abruptly as a result of an autoimmune disease she has been keeping secret for the last five years.
Although Beharie didn’t reveal the exact autoimmune condition she has, she states that it caused her to experience skin rashes and fluctuations in her weight. As a result, her character on the show, FBI agent Abby Mills, was killed off in the season 3 finale, allowing her to take a much-needed break for her health.
Beharie says setting boundaries and limitations, as well as changing her diet, were key to improving her physical and mental state.
Dallas Cowboys Frontman Tackles Autoimmune Condition and Injuries
Travis Frederick, the Dallas Cowboys’ all-star center, revealed that he suffers from an autoimmune condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome. This caused him to miss playing an entire NFL football season, while a backup played in his place. He also revealed he had two surgeries during this time.
Frederick is now expected to return to the starting lineup this upcoming season. However, since he is still experiencing lingering effects of Guillain-Barre, he is being brought back on to the field slowly.
To learn more about Frederick’s story, click here.