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Autoimmune Disease

In Elemental. More on Medium.

Even specialists often struggle to make sense of the puzzling symptoms that come with these slow-moving disorders

A close up of a woman’s arms and hands with vitiligo.
A close up of a woman’s arms and hands with vitiligo.
Photo: MarijaRadovic/E+/Getty

The patient came to her doctor with a low-grade fever, some achiness and fatigue, and a touch of diarrhea. The doctor told her it was probably a mild case of the flu. But weeks later the symptoms hadn’t gone away. The doctor ran some lab tests, but the results didn’t clearly indicate any problems, and he insisted there didn’t seem to be anything physically wrong with her. Still feeling off, she eventually saw other doctors. Yet over years of continuing and even slowly worsening symptoms, none of these doctors were able to tell her what was wrong. …

Illustrations by Kouzou Sakai

Changing environments, extraordinary stress, and the autoimmunity epidemic

Stacy Verdick Case was ill with a host of disparate symptoms. She suffered from joint pain, heart palpitations, and severe fatigue. Doctors tried to address her symptoms, prescribing her the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, attending to her acid reflux, or telling her to exercise. But no one could figure out the root of her underlying health problems.

“Every time they’d look for the cause, there was no cause,” Case says. “Being treated has been a nightmare.”

It took nearly three years and dozens of doctors before Case got a diagnosis: Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation of the thyroid…

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