Living with an autoimmune disease isn’t easy. When your own body attacks itself, in my case, the fight can start anywhere.
Over the years I’ve had it in my joints, liver, eyes, skin and muscle damage and depending on where it is, is what it’s called; arthritis, fatty liver, uveitis, psoriasis and myositis in the cases above. Apart from the obvious inconvenience of that, there’s one big problem that I’ve found in the last year – that no matter what your medical complaint, everything is blamed on your autoimmune condition!
Asthma flare? That’s your autoimmune condition. Chronic fatigue? That’s your autoimmune condition. Fever without other symptoms? That’s your autoimmune condition. All of these three things have been a big problem for me the last three months and I fully understand that they can all be attributed to a general flare of my disease. However, something happened last night that made me realise how easy it would be for someone with my condition to miss something due to what my body does to itself on a daily basis.
I’ve had a nasty cough and sore throat since this run of infections started back at the end of October. I’ve mentioned it to the doctors several times and each time it’s either attributed to the autoimmune disease or biologics treatment that’s been given as the cause for this run of poor health. Anyone else might be freaking out over the thought of a 3 month old cough or sore throat but you do accept it as the norm in my situation.
However, last night whilst I was winding down in front of the TV, watching stupid videos on my mobile phone, I had one particularly bad cough and noticed red splatters all over my screen. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed if I wasn’t watching a video at the time as there was nothing obvious in my hand. My first thought was ‘well that’s why they tell you to cough into your elbow bend now these days as clearly using your hand isn’t ideal’ – then it hit me, I just coughed up blood!
I’m well aware that it’s probably just a burst capillary from the coughing (that was the first thing my wife said when she saw the concern on my face) or a tiny tear in my throat but nonetheless, it really hit home how easily something could be missed. A normal healthy person would be knocking down the door of their GP after 3 months of coughing, eye wateringly sore throats and the first time they saw blood, we’ve all seen the guidance about seeing the doctor if you have a ‘persistent cough/headache’ etc. yet even I am blaming it on my condition these days, even when I’m coughing up blood.
So what do you look for with your autoimmune condition? What changes? When is it time to start demanding investigations with your doctor? It does make me wonder what the statistics for people with autoimmune conditions look like with regards to comorbidities, when were things caught, was it too late etc. and is that a factor with life expectancy in those with autoimmune disease?