7 Women’s Autoimmune Problems Doctors Miss

Posted on Oct 3, 2009 in Health & Wellness

Ashley Price felt terrible. She was tired, dizzy spells came and went, dark splotches popped up on her chest for no reason, and she’d gained 50 pounds in two years. Some days she was starving; other days she could barely eat. Her doc suggested that her problems would go away if Price just ate less and exercised more, even though she was dieting and working out regularly. Price demanded thyroid tests, only to have them come back normal.Her doctor told her: “I have no idea what it is. Wait for it to go away.” It didn’t go away. “I could no longer think straight, no matter how hard I tried or what I did,” Price says. Worse, she suffered three straight miscarriages.

Finally, four years after this nightmare began-after the third miscarriage-an ultrasound revealed that her ovaries were riddled with cysts. She had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder; symptoms include irregular periods, infertility, brain fog, and obesity. Price’s gynecologist prescribed metformin, and she finally got some relief. “I had myself back,” she remembers. “I had energy, I could think, I wasn’t starving all the time.” Best of all, she finally had a baby, born last June.

Ashley Price isn’t alone. Experts say more women than we know walk out of doctors’ offices feeling that their symptoms haven’t been taken seriously. They are told that their complaints are all in their heads or that everything will be fine if they would just stop worrying.

The truth: Women who know something’s wrong but can’t get the help they need often have an autoimmune disorder, which occurs when the immune system attacks itself. One in five Americans has one, and three-quarters of them (about 22 million) are women. Some women live with unbearable symptoms for 10 or 15 years before finally getting the right diagnosis and treatment.

“More than 40% of women eventually diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease have basically been told by a doctor that they’re just too concerned with their health or they’re a hypochondriac,” says Virginia Ladd, founder and executive director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA).

What’s the best way to avoid Price’s fate and get help fast? Ladd and other health experts say you must educate and empower yourself by learning the names, risk factors, symptoms, and treatments for the seven most commonly misdiagnosed women’s illnesses described here. Then push your physician to take you seriously (LINK).