Autoimmune diseases – such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus – are complex conditions in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. In recent years, the incidence of these diseases has risen dramatically, causing a growing concern about the rise in autoimmune diseases.

To help provide some clarity on the subject, our internists in Northwest Indiana discuss some of the key things you should know.

Autoimmunity trends

A 2020 study examined health data over 25 years, involving more than 14,000 participants. The study primarily focused on the prevalence of antinuclear antibodies (ANA), widely recognized as red flags for autoimmunity. ANA are antibodies that target normal cell nucleus proteins and often appear in people with existing autoimmune diseases.

The study’s results were a wake-up call. ANA rates went from 11% in the late ’80s and early ’90s to an alarming 15.9% by 2011-2012. This giant leap means more Americans face autoimmune issues now than ever before.

Key takeaways from the study

A closer look at the study makes it clear that the increase in ANA is happening across the board. Most strikingly, the study showed adolescents aged 12 to 19 experienced more than a two times increase in ANA presence during the latter years of the study. This concern suggests that younger generations now face a higher risk of autoimmune diseases than before.

Moreover, all demographics observed an increase in ANA prevalence. This increase was particularly pronounced among men, a group traditionally less affected by autoimmune diseases than women. Notable increases also appeared in older adults and non-Hispanic white populations.

Interestingly, the increase did not correlate with traditional lifestyle risk factors that internists in Northwest Indiana might see – such as obesity, smoking or alcohol consumption. This observation suggests other, possibly more complex factors, could be driving this increase.

So, what’s causing the increase?

While the study does not exactly explain why more people show signs of autoimmunity, it presents several educated guesses. Environmental factors like increased exposure to pollutants or chemicals might contribute to this trend. Dietary changes in the past few decades, including more processed foods and different farming practices, might also play a role.

Another thing to consider is our improved ability to detect these diseases. Advances in medical tests and increased awareness of autoimmune diseases might lead to more people being correctly diagnosed than in the past. This could partly explain the apparent increase in autoimmune conditions.

What does this mean for you?

These findings might sound troublesome if you are worried about your health or a loved one’s. But keeping a level head is important. Autoimmune diseases vary greatly in complexity and can differ significantly from one person to another. The fact that more people have them does not automatically spell bad news for everyone.

Your first line of defense is staying informed. Recognizing the early signs and symptoms can help individuals catch these diseases early on. Scheduling regular visits with an experienced internist in Northwest Indiana is vital for early detection and intervention. Also, maintaining a healthy lifestyle (although not directly linked to increased ANA prevalence) plays a big role in your overall health.

Looking for an Affordable Internal Medicine Specialist in Northwest Indiana?

Are you having concerns over the rising trend of autoimmune diseases? If so, and if you would like to meet with an affordable internal medicine specialist in Northwest Indiana to discuss your concerns, our team at 219 Health Network would be happy to assist you.

Our internists at 219 Health Network recognize that each patient is unique, which is why we provide personalized attention to meet their individual needs. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.