Young, Sick and Invisible – A Dangerous Trend
In today’s society, young women are expected to be a beacon of health, beauty, and fertility. But statistics show that young women are disproportionately affected by certain diseases and health conditions, and they’re often not taken seriously by both their doctors and the general public – especially when they “look” healthy.
This is why it is becoming more important than ever to advocate for yourself. It is not normal to not feel well all the time. Brushing off symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, bloating, aches and pains, etc simply because you’re young is not a good solution – in fact, it is dangerous.
Here are some conditions that predominately affect young women:
Type 1 Diabetes
This autoimmune disease strikes mostly in childhood, leaving patients unable to metabolize glucose and requiring a lifetime of insulin injections and blood testing to avoid fatal complications. Incidence of the disease has increased fivefold over the last 40 years (and 23 percent in the last decade), leaving about 450,000 young people with a diagnosis.
Nearly 5 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with some type of Lupus. Ninety percent are women, mostly ages 15 to 44. Lupus can manifest with many different symptoms, including sun sensitivity, joint pain, and kidney failure. The relapsing and remitting pattern of the disease and its odd assortment of symptoms mean that many suffer for years before being diagnosed.
Most commonly diagnosed in patients aged 15 to 30, Crohn’s is a chronic and extremely painful inflammatory disorder of the entire digestive tract. Crohn’s is one of several autoimmune inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) with varying symptoms, including bloating, diarrhea, and gut pain, which may flare up or go into remission for poorly understood reasons. Unlike Celiac disease, this condition doesn’t respond to the elimination of gluten or similar proteins.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
MS, a chronic neurological disorder affecting the central nervous system, is the most common neurological disease in young people. Common symptoms of MS include fatigue, weakness, numbness, vision loss, tremors, and depression.
There are five types of psoriasis, which generally causes red, scaly patches to appear on the skin as a result of a speeding up of the skin’s normal replacement processes. While psoriasis can occur at any age, it tends to peak either between the late teens and early 30s, or between the 50s and 60s.
Graves Disease of the Thyroid
Graves disease causes the thyroid gland to overproduce thyroid hormone, which affects the body’s metabolism. Young patients may also experience anxiety, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, insomnia, muscle weakness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, tremors, and nervousness.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
About 1.5 million people in the U.S. have RA, which causes inflammation that can damage joints and organs. Nearly three times as many women than men have the disease, and women tend to exhibit symptoms at a younger age (commonly between ages 30 and 60) than men.
Only over the past 40 years have immunologists developed the theory that these diseases have something in common: attacks by the immune system against cells in its own body. So what causes this? Well, science is always working to better understand autoimmune disorders, but they have determined three main factors:
- Genetic predisposition Some autoimmune diseases run in families, even though many sufferers are the first in their families to be diagnosed. Many families have clusters of different autoimmune diseases that may be from shared genes.
- Environmental influences These are still poorly understood. Possible triggers include infections by viruses or bacteria, food or chemical sensitivities, intense sunlight, and stress.
- Poor gut health New research points to the role of an unbalanced “microbiome” (the microbes that live on our skin and in our guts) and impaired intestinal barrier function (aka “leaky gut”).
Any deviation from your “normal”, especially when experiencing a cluster of symptoms, is cause for concern. If you feel your primary care physician isn’t taking your concerns seriously, it may be time to look into working with a functional medicine practitioner, such as Dr. Kim Bruno. Through a personal approach and in depth diagnostic testing you won’t find in mainstream medicine, you don’t have to be another sick, young, and invisible woman.
In Good Health,