Autoimmune disease - the invisible illness

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Dr Sam Rodgers talks to Marie Claire about the increasing number of people who are being diagnosed with and suffering from an autoimmune condition.

08/12/2017


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Hard to diagnose and painful to live with, an increasing number of women - including celebrities such as Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian are suffering from an autoimmune disease

‘To look at me, you wouldn’t know I had any health problems,’ says Kat Naish, 37, a photographer from Worthing. ‘But if we walked along the street together, I’d lag far behind you. I am not as agile as I used to be. I can’t zip across a zebra crossing; I have to consider every step slowly and carefully.’ Kat suffers from relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), an autoimmune disease that targets the brain and spinal cord, causing extreme fatigue, weakness in limbs, dizziness and degenerating eyesight. And she is one of a growing number of women who are being diagnosed with so-called ‘invisible illnesses’ − chronic conditions that develop when the immune system mistakenly attacks its own body tissues.

‘Autoimmune conditions are affecting an increasing number of us,’ says Dr Sam Rodgers, GP and medical director at Medichecks. ‘There are 1,000 new cases per year and numbers have risen worldwide over the past 30 years. One of my rheumatologist colleagues describes an autoimmune disease as the immune system twiddling its thumbs, becoming bored and deciding to attack our own tissues’. This could, in part, be due to improved awareness and better diagnosis, but experts also believe that our genetics, environments and lifestyles play a part.

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