Tag Archives: autoimmune

Multiple Sclerosis Fast Facts

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, progressive disease of the nervous system that can cause severe, and sometimes debilitating, symptoms. Let’s take a look at some of the key facts to help gain a better understanding of this mysterious and devastating disease:

  • MS causes damage to the protective myelin sheaths surrounding the nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. This causes interruptions in the nerve signals.
  • MS is classified as an autoimmune disease, because it is understood that the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin.
  • MS is relatively rare, afflicting an estimated 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people worldwide.
  • People with other autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to develop MS.
  • Like many autoimmune diseases, MS is much more prevalent in women than men.
  • It is suspected that MS is caused or triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as certain viral infections or vitamin deficiencies.
  • MS usually follows a course that includes multiple flares followed by periods of better health (known as remissions).
  • There are different types of MS, but the most common type is relapsing-remitting, where symptoms sometimes recede with the help of certain medication.
  • Contrary to decades ago, there are many viable treatment options available today for MS including corticosteroid treatment and DMARD (disease modifying antirheumatic drug) options that can really help alter the trajectory of the disease.
  • MS can have widely varying symptoms ranging from mild to disabling. Some of the main symptoms include: fatigue, confusion or fogginess, depression, speech difficulty, dizziness, vision problems, numbness of the extremities, bowel or bladder dysfunction, inflammation, facial numbness and tingling, muscle spasms and pain.
  • When diagnoses is made and treatment starts early in the disease, there will more likely be a better outcome.
  • Even though some MS sufferers are wheelchair-bound, the majority of MS sufferers will not be significantly disabled.
  • MS appears to be most prevalent in more polar areas of the world (further north or south of the equator).
  • The diagnostic process of MS can be long and convoluted. It may involve years of testing and multiple different specialists. Some people get a quick, straightforward diagnosis but for many it can be a long, hard road.
  • MS is usually diagnosed in middle-adulthood but can occur or be discovered at any age.
  • MS is not a terminal condition, but it can cause many complications. People with MS live an average of 6-7 years less than the general population.
  • MS does not usually interfere with pregnancy, and pregnancy doesn’t usually impact the course of the disease either way.
  • There is currently no cure for MS, but medical researchers are still at work to find one.
  • As with many autoimmune diseases, a person can be suffering with a difficult case of MS but it may not be apparent to the average onlooker. So, always be kind, you never know what someone is going through!

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What is Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

Raynaud’s is a blood vessel disorder that causes more rapid, responsive and extreme vasoconstriction when exposed to cold. It primarily targets the blood vessels in the fingertips and toes, often changing the color of the affected areas. There are two types of Raynaud’s: primary, which has no underlying condition triggering it and secondary Raynaud’s, which is linked to a larger underlying (usually autoimmune) condition. Let’s take a look at some facts about Raynaud’s:

  • The most common form, primary Raynaud’s, is usually milder and shows up earlier in life. It is referred to ask Raynaud’s disease.
  • Secondary Raynaud’s, more often referred to as Raynaud’s phenomenon is more severe as it is triggered by a comorbid disease and often comes on later in life.
  • Most Raynaud’s attacks are caused by exposure to cold temperatures or episodes of great stress.
  • Raynaud’s affected fingers and toes usually change color when exposed to cold because of decreased blood flow or vasospasm. Often the fingers or toes will turn white, then red or blue when starting to thaw. This is usually a highly unpleasant sensation.
  • Secondary Raynaud’s can be triggered by such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus or other arthritic, autoimmune conditions.
  • Niacin (also known as vitamin B3) can help increase blood flow for those with Raynaud’s, but be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any supplements.
  • Symptoms include: pain, tingling, numbness, freezing, throbbing and discoloration.
  • Both types of Raynaud’s usually affect the hands and feet. Less commonly, Raynaud’s can affect the ears, nose, lips, nipples and knees.
  • Smoking and certain medications can cause or worsen Raynaud’s as well.
  • Attacks usually only last minutes, but can last several hours in extreme cases.
  • In serious cases (usually with secondary Raynaud’s) open sores can result from the vasospasms, potentially even leading to amputation.
  • Diagnosis of Raynaud’s can be made by ruling out other similar conditions via blood tests, or performing a nailfold capillaroscopy test (when the capillaries under the nails are examined via microscope), or a cold stimulation test whereby the doctor will attempt to induce an attack by intentionally exposing the patient’s hands to cold water.
  • Treatment of Raynaud’s mostly consists of prevention. Some of the key ways to prevent attacks are to: keep the hands and feet as warm as possible at all times, engage in stress management to reduce the number of stress attacks, quit smoking and to exercise regularly to help increase blood flow. These measures should help reduce frequency and severity of attacks which will help limit damage to the extremities.

If you have symptoms of Raynaud’s, be sure to see your doctor for further evaluation to rule out any serious underlying conditions as Raynaud’s is often the first symptom of a larger autoimmune disease. Thanks for visiting DocChat!




A Look At Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form of lupus, a group of serious systemic autoimmune diseases. Combined forms of lupus affect at least 1.5 million Americans and 5 million people worldwide. SLE can range from a mild case with infrequent flare-ups that may not require daily medication, to severe or life-threatening forms with frequent flare-ups that destruct organs and cause lengthy hospital stays.

A Need for Even More Awareness

Unfortunately, like many invisible disabilities, lupus and other rare autoimmune diseases remain ‘mysterious’ and don’t elicit all the understanding and recognition other more obvious diseases garner. Even though many people have heard the term ‘lupus’, it still remains a mystery disease to most, causing people to make up their own misinformed conclusions about its sufferers. Many people believe “she looks fine, so she must be fine” but with diseases like lupus, this is most often not the case. A sufferer may be experiencing serious joint pain, extreme fatigue, mental fogginess or painful internal inflammation while appearing relatively healthy to an onlooker.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Fast Facts

  • Lupus causes the immune system to attack itself, producing autoantibodies that lead to systemic inflammation.
  • Over 90% of lupus sufferers are women.
  • According to the Lupus Foundation of America, “African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans are diagnosed with lupus two or three times more frequently than Caucasians”
  • Lupus usually strikes between adolescence and middle-age, but can afflict children in rare cases.
  • There is no one specific test for lupus, however, a series of blood tests such as the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test as well as inflammatory markers are used along with other factors to diagnose lupus.
  • Doctors also rely on the patient’s symptoms, other tests like skin biopsies, physical examinations, family history and medical history to make the diagnosis.
  • Lupus is hard to diagnose because many lupus symptoms mimic those of other diseases such as multiple sclerosis, scleroderma and fibromyalgia. Symptoms go in and out of remission, also making the disease difficult to detect.
  • It is possible but unlikely to be diagnosed with lupus if you have normal ANA panel results and no signs of the disease in other pertinent blood tests. These results may show positive later in life as the disease often doesn’t show itself early.
  • The Lupus Foundation of America asserts that it takes an average of 6 years from the onset of symptoms until someone receives a definitive diagnoses of lupus. Many are diagnosed in less time, but many more wait much longer.
  • Lupus can cause many complications such as kidney problems, heart failure or other organ failure.
  • Lupus is the leading cause of premature stroke and heart disease among young women.
  • SLE can affect the whole body: the joints, all organs and blood.
  • At least 30% of lupus patients routinely experience the notable lupus ‘butterfly rash’ across the face, medically known as a malar rash, and about two thirds experience photosensitivity.
  • Pregnant women who have lupus are ‘high risk’ but most women who have lupus can have successful pregnancies during symptom-free periods.
  • Mental health issues like anxiety or depression are common among lupus sufferers.
  • While living with lupus is never easy, today’s medical technology and many medication options enable the vast majority of lupus patients to have a better quality of life and see the same life expectancy as those without lupus.
  • Treatments vary depending on the severity of the disease, but may include immunosuppressant, anti-inflammatory medications like prednisone, anti-malarial medications, NSAIDs, disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and medications used to treat co-morbid afflictions such as hypertension.


Symptoms of lupus are varied and plentiful, most sufferers experience the disease and its symptoms differently. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Facial rash
  • Menstrual problems
  • Fever
  • Weight changes (usually loss)
  • Chest pain
  • Hair loss
  • Dry eyes or mouth
  • Easy bruising and scarring accompanied by slow healing
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon
  • Stomach issues
  • Mouth or nose sores
  • Sun sensitivity
  • Pleurisy

There is so much more to this complex disease, but this is a good start. Thanks for visiting DocChat! If you have any questions about lupus or its symptoms, sign up today for a video consultation with one of our board certified DocChat physicians!



There are many thyroid conditions, but the two most common are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism (catch our blog on hypothyroidism in case you missed it earlier today). Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland just below the Adam’s Apple that produces the thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) hormones which help regulate oxygen levels as well as help control your metabolism, growth, appetite, heartbeat and reproductive health. It is estimated that more than 20 million Americans have some kind of a thyroid condition, and more females are affected than males.


As you can imagine, hyperthyroidism is the opposite of the hypothyroidism. While people with hypothyroidism don’t produce enough thyroid hormones, those with hyperthyroidism have overactive thyroid glands that produce an abnormal excess of the hormones. Hyperthyroidism causes all kinds of chaos in the body, often producing such effects as elevated blood pressure. Hyperthyroidism can happen on its own, or can be caused by an underlying autoimmune disease such as Lupus. It is also associated with a condition called thyroiditis, where the gland becomes chronically inflamed. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is an immune disorder called Grave’s disease.

Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism

Signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism sometimes progress slowly, but can lead to the following:

  • Drastically increased appetite
  • Weight loss even if you’re eating more food (not all sufferers lose weight)
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Tachycardia or irregular heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Uncontrollable sweating
  • Trembling
  • Weakness
  • Hot flashes and getting hot easily
  • Abnormal menstrual periods (fewer and lighter)
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Changes in bowel movements (more frequent or loose)


One treatment option for hyperthyroidism is oral radioactive iodine which causes the thyroid gland to shrink, helping even out thyroid symptoms. It has been shown, through decades of popular use, to be a safe treatment. Another treatment option is anti-thyroid medications which gradually reduce the hormones produced by the thyroid gland. Anti-thyroid medications don’t work well for everyone, many of them can be a little more problematic than iorine. They can cause rare but serious side effects such as potentially fatal liver damage, so they should be used with caution. Your doctor will know which carry less risks than others. Beta blockers are often prescribed to people with hyperthyroidism to help lower the heartrate and stabilize high blood pressure caused by the disorder. Lastly, a surgery called thyroidectomy can be performed if a person doesn’t respond to, or is allergic to any of the medications, but this is a last case resort.

While many of the symptoms can be attributed to other conditions, if you experience several of those listed it may be time to look into it. If you do suspect you may have hyperthyroidism, you should check in with your doctor or one of our certified physicians at DocChat to be further evaluated.