Less than 13% of Americans can name an autoimmune disease, yet there are over 100 different diseases that fall into this category and they affect more than 50 million Americans, making autoimmune diseases a major U.S. health crisis.
March is National Autoimmune Diseases Awareness Month and American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) is spreading awareness and asking people to take notice of the 50 million of our friends, family and co-workers who suffer every day with one or more of the 100+ autoimmune diseases. They are doing this through the “We are 50 Million” campaign.
“We are 50 Million” spotlights people and their unique stories about living every day with an autoimmune disease. It asks the question, “How many of the 50 Million Does Your Family Represent?”
On a personal level, I have been very much affected by autoimmune diseases as I have watched members of my family and beloved friends live their lives every day with these diseases. In one case, I experienced tremendous loss of my father’s girlfriend of 10 years, whose was in my life from the time I was 8 until I was 18 years old. She died from Scleroderma, a widespread connective tissue disease that involves changes in the skin, blood vessels, muscles and internal organs.
My grandmother lives with Arthritis that is so bad, she can’t wait to do the dishes every night just so she can soak her hands in the scalding hot water to get some relief. My aunt lives with Fibromyalgia, a disease that causes long-term, body-wide pain and tender points in joints, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues. My Godfather, who is also my father’s best friend ever since high school was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) just a few years ago, a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord and aggressively attacks the central nervous system. One of my best friends, who was also my first real, long-term relationship, lives with Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory and autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing inflammation.
Autoimmune diseases target women 75% more often than men and are one of the top ten killers of women under the age of 64. Autoimmune diseases awareness and the “We are 50 Million” campaign are extremely important initiatives and a sobering look at the health issues affecting women today and, in turn, their families, friends and loved ones. Considering that March is also Women’s History Month, I could not have received the information about National Autoimmune Diseases Awareness Month at a better time.
Autoimmune diseases tend to “cluster” in families, for example, if your grandmother had Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus, you could be at greater risk for developing an autoimmune disease.
To find out more information about autoimmune diseases, visit the AARDA website and keep up with everything happening with AARDA by “liking” them on Facebook. To donate to AARDA and the “We are 50 Million” campaign, you can text A-A-R-D-A to 20222 to donate $5 for the benefit of AARDA research by the Mobile Giving Foundation in order to help future research.