The likelihood that your child might be suffering from an autoimmune disorder is rare, but nowhere near impossible--many times, children exhibit multiple symptoms of autoimmune disease. But because the symptoms can vary depending on whether the autoimmune disorder is localized or systemic (affecting the body in multiple organs/areas), each case must be diagnosed and carefully treated on an individual basis.
All autoimmune diseases attack healthy tissue, but the nonspecific symptoms mimic those of other illnesses like common infections or even cancer. Year after year, children and adults come forward with an array of symptoms that are likely triggered by an autoimmune disease of some sort.
In fact, the prevalence of autoimmune conditions has increased over the past century in many developed countries, and more children are being diagnosed with autoimmune conditions every year.
Why Children Get Autoimmune Diseases
The direct cause of most autoimmune disorders is generally unknown. In children, genetic inheritance is a likely contributor if a relative in the immediate family is also affected with an autoimmune disease. Other well-founded theories suggest environmental factors play a significant role in autoimmune prevalence in children as well. In fact, developed countries have a much higher incidence of autoimmune disease than any developing countries.
Some medical practitioners have suggested that the modern diet consisting of (mostly) inflammatory foods might also be a cause of autoimmune disease. Others have formulated the “hygiene hypothesis” which correlates the decline of infectious disease with the increase in autoimmune disease. With this theory, it is believed that young children in developed countries lack exposure to pathogens that would have normally “prepped” their immune system to recognize and attack infection. As a result, the immune system becomes hyper-reactive, attacking the healthy tissue in error.
The mystery behind autoimmune disease envelopes a lot of possibility. Because autoimmune diseases are chronic, the symptoms must be treated on a long-term basis. Mainstream medicine that is prescribed to treat autoimmune disease is expensive in the long-term and does little to rebuild the health and integrity of the immune system as a whole.
Autoimmune Diseases Affecting Children
Although children may be affected by any of the 80+ medically recognized autoimmune diseases, only a handful of them have been diagnosed relatively often in adolescents and children:
- type-1 diabetes
- celiac disease
- juvenile dermatomyositis
- juvenile idiopathic rheumatoid arthritis
- PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disease Associated with Strep Infection)
Children can exhibit a range of symptoms for any of the listed autoimmune diseases. Rashes, fatigue, joint pain, stomach pains, and seizures can come and go in varying degrees, but certain, persistent symptoms will usually point in the direction of the culprit cause. For example, a child who complains of sore joints more frequently than he/she complains of other symptoms might be affected with juvenile idiopathic rheumatoid arthritis.
Food Allergies and Autoimmune Disease
Perhaps the most common autoimmune disease found in children is celiac disease. As everyone partakes in the trend of ‘gluten-free’ dining, there are people in the world who suffer with a legitimate gluten allergy. This allergy is not just a mild discomfort for those affected; diarrhea, loss of appetite, painful aches, fatigue, irritability, bloating, and weight loss are all common symptoms of celiac disease.
Like with other autoimmune diseases, the symptoms can come and go and be gone one week and get much worse the next. The chronic condition is hard to pin down, and it is not uncommon that a child is left undiagnosed until later in life. For a child with celiac disease, eating gluten causes the immune system to attack the healthy digestive villi that absorb the nutrients a growing body needs.
Getting Help with Your Child’s Autoimmune Disease
LifeWorks Wellness Center is considered by many to be Florida’s top autoimmune disease clinic. We routinely see patients from all over the country seeking solutions for celiac’s disease and other autoimmune diseases commonly found in children. Autoimmune diseases are chronic conditions that require committed specialists and individualized care. At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we seek to help those patients who do not have access to autoimmune specialists in their area, as well as those who seek a more holistic approach to healthcare. With our individualized treatments, the immune system is nourished and rebuilt from the ground up. A thriving immune system starts with holistic care that not only treats the symptoms, but the underlying cause as well.
Meet with An Autoimmune Disease Doctor
We offer autoimmune disease treatment to help both adult and children regain their health and we would love to help you or your child, too.
To schedule an appointment to be seen by an autoimmune disease specialist or for more information about our services, feel free to call our New Patient Coordinator at (727) 466-6789 or simply submit an online web form with your request.
*Disclaimer: Individual patient results may vary based on a patient's medical history and other factors.