It’s Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month—but what are autoimmune diseases? Autoimmune diseases occur when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks another part of the person’s own body. This response can result in a range of diseases, depending on which parts of the body are affected. In type 1 diabetes (T1D), the body targets the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that helps the body convert sugar to fuel.
There are between 80-100 different autoimmune diseases and around 50 million Americans have one or more autoimmune diseases. This includes a fifth of the T1D community who in addition to type 1 diabetes, can experience thyroid disorders, celiac disease, or Addison’s disease. Although there has yet to be a cure for any autoimmune disease, JDRF wants to change that. As part of our mission to cure, prevent, and treat T1D and its complications, our research also has the potential to impact other autoimmune diseases.
How Can I Support Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month?
You can do just that! Spread awareness of autoimmune diseases by:
- Sharing information about autoimmune diseases with your loved ones.
- Learning about other autoimmune diseases through JDRF’s work with the Lupus Research Alliance and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
- Understanding the importance of screening and monitoring for autoimmune diseases like T1D through JDRF’s T1Detect program.
Why is screening and monitoring for T1D so important?
Because most people do not have a family history of T1D, symptoms and a diagnosis often occur out of the blue. Many people require hospitalization at diagnosis because their blood sugars are extremely high, and they are very sick. To avoid this risk, everyone should be able to test for type 1 diabetes autoantibodies. Screening can help give families time to prepare and develop a plan for further monitoring with their doctor.
If you do one thing during this year’s National Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month, please keep using your voice to continue the discussion about autoimmune diseases and share your own experiences within your community. Forward this post to a friend or family member and inspire them to get involved.
This post was originally written and published on the JDRF Greater New England Chapter’s blog here.