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Autoimmune disease 101: How to get an accurate diagnosis

46188852_MYou’ve been struggling with symptoms for some time now, maybe even years. You may have seen various doctors along the way. And, maybe, just maybe, you’re finally onto a diagnosis. But, how do you know if you’re getting an accurate diagnosis?

There are over 100 autoimmune diseases, and there isn’t a specific medical field devoted to treating them all. Instead, what often happens when an autoimmune disease is suspected, is you will be referred to a specialist who deals with the main symptom. For example, if the doctor suspects Celiac Disease, you may be referred to a Gastroenterologist. The problem with that is, many doctors aren’t quick to test for an autoimmune disease. When you have an autoimmune disease, the symptoms you suffer may flare up and then go in remission, and you may experience various symptoms that don’t look like they’d be related to one another.

It’s very difficult to get a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, because it takes a lot of time, and usually several physicians. But, if you stick to it, and you’re an advocate for your health, you can eventually get an accurate diagnosis. Whatever you do, don’t give up on getting answers. You may come across a doctor that is insensitive to your symptoms, they may infer that the symptoms are related to stress or you may even feel that your doctor doesn’t believe you. If this is the case, you need to stand up for yourself, and probably find a different practitioner that will be sensitive to your needs and eager to help you find a correct diagnosis. Your doctor should treat you with care, concern, and respect.

Be an advocate for your health

You can help ensure the right diagnosis by doing your own research in the meantime. Log all of your symptoms, even those that you question are related. They might be, even if they don’t seem like it at first glance. Make sure to also report the time frame of when it happened, conditions, anything you consumed (food, drink, medication), etc. You want to provide as much information as possible for when you go back to the doctor. Also, if you think of symptoms you’ve experienced previously, you may want to make note of those too, in case they’re indicators.

When you go to see your physician, take this log with you. Make sure your doctor looks at it so they can get a better view of what’s going on. In your research, you’ll also want to check out your family history. Did you know if someone in your family has an autoimmune disease, you might be more prone to getting one? It doesn’t even have to be the same one. Don’t stop by just looking at your close family. Check into the health of your cousins, aunts and uncles, and your grandparents. Make sure to relay what you find to your doctor.

When you gather all of the information you can, you help to ensure that you’re going to get a proper diagnosis. Because there are so many conditions, and the symptoms can vary with autoimmune diseases, it’s best to have as close to a complete history as possible.

Ask questions to make sure your autoimmune disease diagnosis is accurate

When moving forward with a diagnosis, make sure that you ask what your options are for getting treatment. Have a full understanding of the upside and downside of the treatment options. Also, talk to them to find out how long you’ll be going through the suggested treatment. If you don’t feel your treatment is helping, speak up. It’s possible you received an inaccurate diagnosis or you may need another treatment option. Keep in mind that while it’s rare, some people suffer from more than one autoimmune disease.

Most importantly throughout this process, be an advocate for yourself. Do the research, talk to others, ask for recommendations to see the right doctors and specialists. Keep track of your symptoms, and look into your family history. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to get a second, third, or even fourth opinion from other medical practitioners. You want to ensure that you’re getting accurately diagnosed and that you’re getting the right treatment to manage your autoimmune disease effectively and accurately.

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