What happens when your body turns against you? My youngest sister found the answer to this question just a few weeks ago, when she was rushed to the hospital for blood transfusions and testing for various autoimmune disorders. The answer: you get to spend lots of time in the hospital with needles in your arm.
She was in Michigan with our mom, an aunt, and our brother when her speech became slurred and the words just weren’t coming out right. Then her right arm got really heavy. My aunt rushed to find my mom and they brought her to a local hospital. When it became clear they wouldn’t be able to help her there, she was transferred by ambulance to the children’s unit in a larger hospital in Minnesota.
What is an autoimmune disorder?
An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue (MedLine Plus). Wouldn’t it be great if we could just tell our bodies to stop attacking the good guys? Well, healthy bodies can already distinguish between perfectly good tissue and the stuff that actually needs to be destroyed. Not the case when your immune system is down.
What are some symptoms of an autoimmune disorder?
Signs that something was wrong began to show up weeks – or even months – before my sister landed in the hospital. I remember seeing the bruises all over her body and thinking that something was not right. Then her gums started bleeding. But the bruises were blamed on scratching her arms and legs and the bleeding was chalked up to brushing her teeth too hard.
My sister had constant headaches. One day when she was exercising – not at all strenuously – she began vomiting. And just going shopping was too exhausting for her. Dizziness, fatigue, a low-grade fever, and a general ill feeling are all symptoms of an autoimmune disorder.
What are different types of autoimmune disorders?
There are more than 80 different types of autoimmune disorders (MedLine Plus). Addison’s Disease, Type I Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Multiple Sclerosis are all examples of autoimmune disorders or autoimmune diseases. My sister was treated for two disorders: Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP) and Hemolytic Anemia.
She had to receive several blood transfusions while she was in the hospital that week. She also had to undergo many blood tests and take various medications to get her hemoglobin and platelet counts up. My sister was finally able to return home, but she is still taking meds for the autoimmune disorders and the doctors are still trying to figure out what is going on with her body. But we may never know for sure.
**Note: This article is meant for informational purposes only. If you or someone you know has symptoms of an autoimmune disorder, please consult with your doctor immediately.