This article is about my personal battle with autoimmune diseases for the past 15 years.
I first began getting ill around the age of 35. I started feeling weak and run down all the time. It felt like I had no energy to do anything. All I could do was lie on the couch. After approximately a year of this, my doctor finally figured out I had pernicious anemia or B12 deficiency, which is a type of autoimmune disease. I was then started on B12 injections every week and have continued to do so until this very day. The nurse showed me how to do the injections, so now I just do them myself at home.
Following the discovery of the B12 deficiency, I then began feeling like I had a urinary tract infection all the time. It involved symptoms of pain in the pelvic area, frequency, and urgency with very little urine expelled. Several urine cultures were done showing no infection. This was truly odd. I had several UTIs in the past, and they had all presented similarly. It turned out to be another autoimmune disease called interstitial cystitis. This is a painful disease causing pain and burning-type sensation in the pelvic region. Basically, your own body is destroying healthy cells in the lining of the bladder wall that it is mistaking for foreign cells. It is not known why this happens. It is an extremely rare medical condition. I then got put on a drug by the name of Elmiron. It took 6 months for this drug to start working, and I have been on this treatment ever since. I still get flareups of the symptoms from time to time, but nothing like before.
After the diagnosis of interstitial cystitis, kidney stones began. These produce the worst pain I think I have ever felt in my entire life. I have had about 4-5 episodes of kidney stones so far, and I still continue to have kidney stone attacks off and on. I have figured out that calcium is a big no-no for me and seems to be a culprit for the kidney stones I get.
Following the diagnosis of kidney stones, I started experiencing symptoms of yet another autoimmune disease. I started having symptoms similar to the B12 deficiency with feeling weak and tired with no get up and go, and very sore pain deep in the muscles. After being tested for just about every other disease you can imagine, they finally diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I was placed on yet another drug by the name of Lyrica, which I do not feel I could function without. Fibromyalgia is another one of those diseases that will keep you lieing on the couch. I consider myself very lucky that Lyrica has worked for me as it does not seem to work for everyone.
The next bout of symptoms I started having was dryness of my eyes and mouth. I drink fluids like crazy all the time. In the morning upon waking, my eyes would be so dry, it was painful to even try and open them to see. I ended up with yet another autoimmune disease known as Sjogren syndrome being held responsible for these symptoms. This is my most current illness to pop up. My eyes were so inflamed, I got placed on steroid eye drops for two weeks, and am trying Restasis twice a day. So far, the steroid has cleared the inflammation for now, but will have to wait and see if Restasis helps at all once off the steroid drops. I am now 45 years of age at the time of this article, so all of these diseases have occurred over the course of a 15-year span.
Autoimmune diseases are definitely no fun at all. It is difficult to plan anything as you never know how you are going to feel from day to day. I still get hit with bouts of fatigue and tiredness, but I can at least get through an 8-hour day of work, so far that is. Once you are diagnosed with one autoimmune disease, you can be sure that others will follow, which is very unfortunate. I am afraid to see what happens next.