If you are looking for an autoimmune disease specialist, it is difficult to know where to start
For now, autoimmune diseases are very poorly understood, and the factors that cause them are also not well-established. Consequently, there is a lot of disagreement about correct treatments.
You want someone that you can trust to help you get the best care possible. Continue reading for more information about autoimmune disease specialists and how to find a great one.
What Kind of Specialists Work with Autoimmune Disease Patients?
Over the course of your treatment, you may need to work with several specialists, and your family doctor can help you coordinate the different kinds of care you receive.
Most people will experience some sort of mild symptom and start with a general practitioner. The GP can then run preliminary testing and decide if it’s necessary to refer them to another expert. Things such as rheumatic conditions in close relatives can be a strong predictor, so treatment shouldn’t be delayed even for minor symptoms.
Here are some of the experts you may need to work with.
A rheumatologist is a doctor who deals with the treatment of autoimmune conditions called rheumatic diseases. Because of the generalized nature of an autoimmune disease, the training of a rheumatologist is extremely broad. They must be well-versed in all areas of the body and understand all the complex ways in which those areas interact.
These doctors deal with hormone and gland problems of various kinds. If you have type 1 diabetes, most of your care will likely be done by an endocrinologist.
Considering that some autoimmune diseases attack the nerves, you may need a neurologist as well.
What to Bring
When you first visit a specialist, bring as much of your medical history as you can get your hands on. You want to make your doctor aware of everything related to your health. This is especially true for autoimmune diseases, as you never know what the cause is going to be.
Make sure you have copies of all your previous testing history and examination results to avoid anything getting left behind. The referring practitioner should forward this, but don’t forget about additional testing you’ve done privately. Also, make a list of all the medications you’re currently taking. Take a mental inventory of drugs you’ve taken for extended periods in the past in case it comes up.
Allergies that you are aware of will be an important part of the examination, as will your family history. You should make an effort to have as much information as you can about your family’s conditions. Again, many things could end up being relevant so be as detailed as possible.
What to Expect
The complicated nature of autoimmune diseases will require all the aforementioned information and probably more testing. A lot of the time, the autoimmune disease specialist will come to a diagnosis based on exclusion. You should expect a full body examination to detect any symptoms which you may have overlooked.
Once the examination is completed, you will most likely need further testing before you receive a treatment plan. Inflammation testing is very common, as well as basic allergy tests. The likely scenario is that you will be receiving treatment for a long time. So, it’s important to come to the visit with a long-term commitment mentality.
What to Demand
The way to know if you can work well with any specialist is going to be their response to what you say you need. Don’t settle for the first doctor you see and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Below are some things you should bring up if your doctor doesn’t.
Heavy Metals Testing
The evidence supporting chemically-induced autoimmunity is very well-documented. So, it’s important to be thorough in examining environmental factors. You should talk to your doctor about doing heavy metal toxicity testing and be specific in what results you’re looking for. Mercury and other heavy metals have been shown to be factors in causing autoimmunity.
Hard to Detect Infections
Another possible contributing factor could be a stubborn infection that you’ve been carrying around undetected. These long-term infections can have very adverse effects on the immune system. Conditions such as Lyme disease are difficult to detect and can be the cause of many autoimmune problems. This is another area you should discuss with your autoimmune disease specialist.
Food Allergies and Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is in itself an autoimmune disease and can be the root cause of many seemingly unrelated symptoms. Your risk of developing autoimmune disorders will increase with age so get tested as early as you can.
Ask your doctor to recommend the right kind of food sensitivity testing. You can also take this matter largely into your own hands by eliminating all possible food allergens. A reduction in symptoms can be grounds for more specific testing.
Remember that eating well can help you battle your autoimmune disease even if you don’t have any food allergies. So consider working with a nutritionist or dietitian, but you can also start with implementing some changes even before you meet with a doctor. Speaking with other people who have autoimmune diseases can help you find the right approach to your diet.
Physician, Heal Thyself
You should always try to cooperate with your doctor, but demand a standard of care that you’re comfortable with. Request that your specialist becomes informed about functional medicine and alternative treatment options. If you only rely on treating the symptoms of your disease, chances are you’ll live with it for a very long time.
Rheumatologists and other specialists are well-trained, but they’re not infallible. The way your condition develops will depend on your particular physiology and circumstances, and no expert can predict everything that you might need. So the only way to get the care you deserve is to participate actively in your treatment.
It might take you a while to find the right doctor for you. But don’t settle for substandard care and don’t stop doing research of your own.