Autoimmunity in Women: The Delayed Diagnosis Problem
Are you a woman struggling with mysterious symptoms that no one seems to take seriously?
Are you tired of being dismissed when doctors say your symptoms are just caused by anxiety or depression?
Do you feel like you’re constantly fighting an uphill battle just to get a proper diagnosis for your autoimmune disease?
If so, you’re not alone. The delayed diagnosis of autoimmunity is a significant issue that affects many women. It can be frustrating and discouraging. But why does it happen, and how can you get the care you deserve?
I’m Dr. Laura Paris, an autoimmune specialist for women and a certified functional medicine practitioner. For over two decades, I’ve helped women get to the bottom of their symptoms with thoughtful, comprehensive care.
In this blog, I’ll explore the challenges that women face when seeking care for their autoimmune conditions.
But more importantly, you’ll learn how to address these issues and find the care and support you need. It may not feel like it now, but it’s out there!
If you’re tired of feeling dismissed, frustrated, and alone in your struggle with autoimmune disease, this blog is for you. Let’s work together to increase awareness, education, and advocacy for women’s health.
Women’s Health: The Significance of Delayed Diagnosis
Autoimmune conditions are complex and can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can affect different parts of the body. Connecting the dots to make an accurate diagnosis is a challenge.
Unfortunately, this leads to significant delays in diagnosis. Some women may go years before they receive a proper diagnosis. That means they’re stuck dealing with mysterious symptoms (and the accompanying anxiety…) for wayyy too long.
In some cases, the delay in diagnosis can cause permanent damage to the body.
So let’s dive into what factors may be keeping you from receiving proper care.
Autoimmunity in Women: Barriers to Accessing Care
It can be challenging for some women to get the medical care they need. Especially if they don’t have health insurance.1 It’s no secret — healthcare is expensive. Women who can’t afford it might avoid seeking care altogether.
Even if a woman does have insurance, sometimes she still has to pay a lot of money out of her own pocket. This can make it tough to get the care she needs. And it’s not just about money…
Many women still face discrimination and biases when seeking medical care.
Women from marginalized communities, including…
- Women of color
- LGBTQ+ women
- Women living in poverty
…are particularly at risk of experiencing this type of discrimination.
When healthcare professionals hold biases against certain groups, women receive unequal care. And these biases can be conscious or unconscious. Female patients may be dismissed or not taken seriously when reporting their symptoms. This leads to — you guessed it — delayed diagnoses.
As a result, women may suffer from their symptoms for much longer than necessary and may even develop more severe health problems.
This is unacceptable and can have serious consequences for women’s health. Doctors need to be aware of their biases. They should treat all patients the same way, regardless of their background.
In my book, everyone deserves the same quality of care. When we work to make sure everyone has access to good healthcare, we can help people stay healthy and feel better.
Autoimmunity in Women: Medical Gaslighting
Medical gaslighting is when doctors or healthcare providers say that a woman’s symptoms are not real and that they are just imagining them. They may say it’s because of catch-all psychological factors — like anxiety or depression.
This can be particularly frustrating for women, who may feel as though their symptoms are not being taken seriously. Medical gaslighting can also mean that women don’t get the right diagnosis or treatment, which can make their health problems worse and cause them to suffer for longer.
Despite what medical professionals are telling you, please know that your symptoms are valid. You deserve to be taken seriously and receive proper care.
Autoimmunity in Women: Misdiagnosis of Autoimmune Symptoms
There are over 80 types of autoimmune conditions, and they can affect any part of the body. Symptoms can vary widely depending on the type of autoimmune disease. Some common ones include fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and digestive problems.
Symptoms of autoimmunity can be similar to those of other health conditions.2 Doctors may have difficulty giving a correct diagnosis. In some cases, doctors might misinterpret the symptoms. They may think they’re caused by conditions such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
The result? Misdiagnosis. Without the right diagnosis, women suffer longer than they need to. And in some cases, their autoimmunity worsens.
You deserve relief. And sometimes, a second (or third) opinion is necessary. But you may be wondering — who diagnoses autoimmune diseases?
Functional medicine practitioners and autoimmune specialists (👋!) have the tools and expertise required for uncovering the correct diagnosis. In combination with your conventional doctor, we can help you manage your condition — so you can feel better faster.
The Importance of Early Detection in Women’s Health
Autoimmune symptoms can be vague, leading to delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis. It’s crucial to diagnose autoimmune conditions as early as possible to prevent further damage to the body.
Studies have found that certain antibodies in the blood can indicate the future development of autoimmune conditions, even before symptoms appear. That’s why early detection is so important. Intervention and treatment can stop your condition from getting worse.
This is why it’s essential to relentlessly advocate for your health.
I want to reassure you that if you’re experiencing symptoms, there are healthcare professionals who will take you seriously. They want to help you find the cause of your symptoms. Seek care and don’t give up until you receive the proper diagnosis and treatment. You deserve to feel heard, understood, and supported.
Need real support?
If you’re struggling with autoimmunity and are looking for 1:1 expert guidance and real-time support, you’ll find that and more in my program, Road to Remission. It’s time to get the validation and clarity you’ve been craving.
In my holistic, 4-month program, I’ll help you develop a personalized anti-inflammatory lifestyle that keeps your autoimmunity symptoms at bay. Want to know how I’m able to do that? You guessed it — by listening. Because you deserve it, sister!
1 Cardoso LJ, Gassman-Pines A, Boucher NA. Insurance Barriers, Gendering, and Access: Interviews with Central North Carolinian Women About Their Health Care Experiences. Perm J. 2021 May;25:20.176. doi: 10.7812/TPP/20.176. PMID: 33970077; PMCID: PMC8784032.
2 Ravan JR, Chatterjee S, Singh P, Maikap D, Padhan P. Autoimmune Rheumatic Diseases Masquerading as Psychiatric Disorders: A Case Series. Mediterr J Rheumatol. 2021 Jun 30;32(2):164-167. doi: 10.31138/mjr.32.2.164. PMID: 34447914; PMCID: PMC8369283.