Autoimmune disease as a category affects 50 million Americans. It is one of the top 10 causes of death in women under the age of 65. It is the second highest cause of chronic illness, and is the top cause of morbidity in women in the United States. Additionally, autoimmune diseases have been reported to be on the rise in the U.S. and around the world, making this poorly understood category of disease a public health crisis at levels comparable to heart disease and cancer. Because of a severe lack of awareness amongst the general public and medical practitioners and unequal allocation of research funding and focus at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), plus a lack of coordinated care and standardized diagnostic tests, the associated cost of autoimmune diseases has become a significant portion of the rising cost of healthcare in the U.S. Addressing the pressing concerns surrounding autoimmune diseases should be a major priority of the United States Congress as a means of reducing healthcare spending while ensuring improved public health. ’Autoimmunity and Autoimmune Disease’ The Common Thread – There are 100+ known autoimmune diseases, all caused by the common thread that is autoimmunity. The process of autoimmunity is started when one’s immune system becomes overactive and, rather than destroy invader cells, such as infections and viruses, targets one’s own healthy cells and tissues causing the various autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases can affect any system in the body. Symptoms vary widely among the diseases, making the diseases difficult for doctors to diagnosis. Exactly what triggers an autoimmune response is unknown; however, researchers do know that autoimmune diseases occur where there are a genetic predisposition in the family towards autoimmunity and the presence of an environmental trigger, such as, viruses, bacteria, medications, pollutants, hormones, or stress.
Walsh SJ, Rau LM. Am J Public Health 2000;90:1463-6, PMID: 10983209
Researchers have found some connection with autoimmune diseases & pregnancy, in that pregnancy has been shown to trigger some autoimmune diseases as well as cause other autoimmune diseases to go into remission. Know we seem to know why.
Autoimmune diseases are the second leading cause of chronic illness in the United States; and as a category, they are the leading cause of morbidity in women.
It’s estimated that annual autoimmune disease treatment costs is greater than $100 billion. While $100 billion is a staggering figure, it is likely a vast understatement of the true costs of autoimmune disease as the annual costs of only 7 of the 100+ known autoimmune diseases:
Systemic lupus erythematosus(SLE),
Multiple sclerosis (MS),
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA),
Just these 7 it is estimated through epidemiological studies to total from $51.8-$70.6 billion annually.
Biennial Report of the Director, National Institutes of Health Fiscal Years 2006 & 2007, Summary of Activities by Disease Category, Autoimmune Diseases; http://tinyurl.com/87jbnsg
Tobias, L., A Briefing Report on Autoimmune Diseases and AARDA: Past, Present, and Future, 2010.
Faustman, D. Institute of Medicine Report, “Women’s Health Research: Progress, Pitfalls, and Promise, 20106 C. Schoen, R. Osborn, S. K. H. How, M. M. Doty, and J. Peugh, In Chronic Condition: Experiences of Patients with Complex Health Care Needs, in Eight Countries, 2008, Health Affairs Web Exclusive, Nov. 13, 2008, w1-w16; http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/Publications/In-the-Literature/2008/Nov/In-Chronic-Condition–Experiences-of-Patients-with-Complex-Health-Care-Needs–in-Eight-Countries–20.aspx7 Tobias, L., A Briefing Report on Autoimmune Diseases and AARDA: Past, Present, and Future, 2010