Auto-immune diseases on rise among women of reproductive age’

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auto-immune diseases in bolds

New Delhi (Health Wire) Things were not easy for 27-year-old Urvasi (name changed) after two abortions within a period of one and a half years.

Unaware of the exact reason behind the failure in the delivery of the baby, it was not just depression that gripped her but also the taunts of her in-laws that compelled her to visit several gynaecologists within a short span to figure out what was wrong with her healthwise.

Understanding her complications and cases of spontaneous abortions, a doctor at a private hospital in the national capital referred Urvasi to Rheumatology department of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi.

Rheumatology Department of AIIMS

On being informed of no medical history in the past, Urvasi at the Rheumatology Department of AIIMS was advised to undergo a few tests during which she was found positive for Antiphospholipid syndrome, also known as antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS or APLS), which is a severe form of auto-immune diseases.

Auto-immune diseases are a condition that occurs as a result of the immune system attacking the body’s own organs, tissues, and cells. Some of the more common autoimmune diseases include type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis,  lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and some organ-specific ones such as Multiple sclerosis and Myasthenia gravis.

According to doctors, although the cause of many autoimmune diseases remains unknown, a person’s genes in combination with infections and other environmental exposures are likely to play a significant role in disease development. Treatments are available for many autoimmune diseases, but cures have yet to be discovered.

While there is no data available with the World Health Organisation or the Indian health bodies on how many Indians suffer from autoimmune diseases, a global estimate shows that nearly 700 million people – that is, nearly one-tenth of the global population – suffer from some kind of an autoimmune disease, in stages ranging from mild and moderate to severe.

Like other cases of autoimmune diseases, in the case of Urvasi also she suffered from a slew of problems such as severe pain and blackish discolouration (gangrene) of a toe along with breathlessness because of the clot in arteries.

Having received proper treatment for control of her disorder, Urvasi was able to deliver a baby finally in 2013. However, she kept on suffering from a slew of other problems such as paralysis and other types of body pain.

Auto-immune diseases

According to doctors at AIIMS, autoimmune diseases are more common among women of reproductive age group. 

“Auto-immune disorders are very common among women of reproductive age. APS can present with various symptoms resulting from thrombosis in the blood vessels like arteries, veins and capillaries as well as obstetrical complications,” Dr Uma Kumar, head of Rheumatology department at the AIIMS, Delhi, said.

Speaking specifically about APS, Kumar, who treated Urvasi, said that women with this disorder can have obstetric complications that include unexplained recurrent early miscarriage, fetal death premature birth or fetal growth retardation and pre-eclampsia.

Talking about the diagnosis of the disease, Kumar, who is first to start the Rheumatology department at AIIMS, said a diagnosis of APS is based on clinical features and positive auto-antibodies like anti-cardiolipin antibodies, anti-β2-glycoprotein 1 antibodies and lupus anticoagulant.

“One per cent of the normal population can have antiphospholipid antibody (APLA) positivity, and only two per cent of those having positive APLA develop the disease,” Kumar said.

Dr Alok Kalyani, Rheumatologist at Max Super speciality at Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh said that auto-immune disease such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus and APS are common among the women.

“Auto-immune diseases are crippling disorders and can  lead to premature death. This is not curable but treatable and kept in control. Nearly 90 per cent of auto-immune diseases patients are female,” Kalyani said.

Kalyani also said that the problems of auto-immune diseases are late diagnosed because there is an absolute lack of awareness among citizens about it, especially women.

However, Dr Neeraj Jain, a Rheumatologist at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said that the reason in a spurt in the number of auto-immune cases in the country and elsewhere these days is increasing because of better facilities for diagnosis of such disorders.

“Thing is improving for the patients of auto-immune diseases in today’s era. Unlike before there are better facilities and there is a proper diagnosis for it. Patients with the disorder, especially women if take medicines properly they lead a better life even if not completely getting rid of it,” Jain told. ENDS

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