Living with Autoimmune in Your 20s and 30s
Welcome to the second article in this series examining life during various decades for patients with autoimmune disease. In the first entry, we discussed the experience of living with autoimmune disease in your teen years, and how this impacts both patient and disease profile. Today, we look at those same questions for someone in her 20s or 30s, i.e., the childbearing years.
Please note that this article will focus primarily on aspects of disease during this period that differ from the information presented previously, much of which is applicable to multiple decades or even a lifetime. Please see the more extensive article on this same topic during your teens for more information and links to additional sites.
In terms of management of my autoimmune conditions during this period of my life (taking into account general health, diet and activity level, kids/no kids, hormones), what can I expect with regard to a) amount/intensity of symptoms, b) difficulty managing flares, and c) onset of additional autoimmune conditions?
These two decades of the 20s and 30s years present a mix of good and bad for autoimmune disease sufferers. Most women will be generally healthy during this period, with a decent diet and active lifestyle; this is important in the management of any disease, with autoimmune diseases being no exception. On the other hand, this time in your life is one of hormonal peaks and valleys, possible childbirth and parenthood, and a large amount of stress in general, all of which can contribute negatively to your condition, as regards symptoms and flares.
As noted in the first article covering the teen years, both childbirth and hormone levels do seem to impact these diseases. It is tough to know much more about how such things will affect individual women, since everyone manifests their conditions slightly differently, and for different reasons. The key in terms of management will depend much less on age variations, and more on proper medication regimen and compliance. Luckily, in this age range, memory is usually good and compliance is less of an issue than later in life.
Just as type-1 diabetes tends to arise during childhood or adolescence, there are also certain conditions that are more commonly diagnosed during the 20s and 30s, such as myasthenia gravis and multiple sclerosis. Therefore, new conditions may develop during these decades that require additional attention. Finally, there does seem to be autoimmune comorbidity, which means that people with one autoimmune disease tend to develop other autoimmune diseases, though the nature of the connection is unclear, and not all conditions are positively correlated. What this all means for you is that your chances of being diagnosed with an additional autoimmune disease are greater than for someone with no autoimmune disease diagnosis; but this is far from a certainty, and should be discussed more in depth with your doctor.
How will managing my overall health, the number of children I have, and hormone balance/imbalance affect my symptoms in future decades?
As indicated above, all of these factors may have some impact on your condition, though it is hard to estimate how much or little without knowing a patient’s particulars. Still, maintaining excellent overall health and reporting any changes to your healthcare provider immediately are primary weapons in the fight against any disease, including autoimmune diseases.
Depending on the disease in question, hormones may or may not play a part in its progression, but any imbalance should be investigated and dealt with, especially during these years when you may be more inclined to have children. And just as in this period, there are certain autoimmune diseases that may develop later in life (which will be covered elsewhere), though the medical community is still debating whether and how they are connected to earlier autoimmune disease diagnoses.
Questions for your doctor:
- What are specific things I need to be concerned about during these two decades?
- Given my current diagnoses, what are the chances of developing another autoimmune disease? Are there certain autoimmune diseases that are more likely than others?
- How can hormone levels impact my specific disease(s), and what can I do, if anything, to control these levels naturally?
- Are there any reasons, given my medical history, that I should avoid becoming pregnant?
- Do you know of any literature or support groups that cater to someone in this age range?
About the Author
Dr. Rothbard is a professional medical writer and consultant based in New York City, specializing in medical education articles targeted at a variety of audiences, from children through clinicians. After leaving medicine, he worked as a biology and medical science educator for several years, before deciding to pursue writing full-time. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post was originally published by AutoimmuneMom.com, written by Dr. Rothbard, and first published on Aug 26, 2012.
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