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Hello! New member and terrified about autoimmune diseases

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Old 02-24-2013, 11:13 PM   #1
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Hello! New member and terrified about autoimmune diseases

Hi there! My issue will actually take quite a while to explain, but I'll try to keep things brief and quickly summarize what's been going on for me. I suffer from severe health anxiety and about 1.5 to 2 years ago went to see a doctor for a stomachache. He ran a bunch of blood tests, one of which was an ANA test (a blood test which checks for autoimmune disorders), which came back positive, but with the lowest possible positive reading (i.e. "low titer"). He told me not to worry about it, but I thought this was irresponsible advice (why would one ignore an abnormal test result?). Auto-immune diseases run in my family (mom has Hashimoto's and aunt has Raynaud's), and they have always been the things I have fixated on as a hypochondriac: MS, ALS, lupus, you name it. So I followed up with a rheumatologist, but since I didn't have any other symptoms, she just ran the test again. And it came back with the same result. So she told me to come back in six months for another follow up test. Which I did. Still positive, low titer. So then after another six months I went back for a third test, and the results were negative. This last normal test was a few months ago in October 2012.

But now on to what's concerning me. In late November 2012, I got a bad cold, which I didn't think much of - it seemed like it was just a standard cold, that lasted for about a week with no complications, and it cleared up on its own. But then I got sick again in early January - same thing: a cold that lasted about a week. I thought it was a little strange to get sick again so quickly, but figured it was no big deal. But then last week I got yet another cold, followed by a stomach ache; the cold lasted for about a week, and the stomachache followed directly afterward and lasted about two days.

Which brings me to now. I'm now more or less recovered from the last cold and stomachache, but am terrified I have some kind of autoimmune disorder causing me to get sick so much, especially because one of my friends, who has an autoimmune disorder, told me that hers started with a string of colds/flus back when she was in college. My rheumatologist told me to remain vigilant for symptoms like sores in my mouth, aching joints, etc. And I think that I have noticed a few rough spots in my mouth, but they clear up within 24 hours or so, and I'm not sure if that could be related to the virus I had that caused the cold. Other than that, I don't have aching joints or a rash or anything.

Like I said, I suffer from pretty debilitating health anxiety, so it can sometimes be hard for me to tell which symptoms are really worth worrying about, which ones are manufactured, and which ones are actually not that bad but seem worse in my mind. So I suppose I'm just wondering if you can provide some words of reassurance or advice, since I can see myself going down a spiral of fear and anxiety tonight, and I'm trying to nip it in the bud WITHOUT googling symptoms of lupus or some other autoimmune disease. Does getting a lot of colds in such a short period seem suspicious or cause for alarm? I mean, I just had that ANA test done in mid-October of last year, so just a few months ago I had a negative blood test, which I guess is a good sign. But I suppose things can change at any time. And I'm a college professor, meaning that I'm in frequent contact with students, who often seem to be sicker than the general population. I'm trying to be rational with myself and focus on all the signs that point to me just getting unlucky and catching a string of colds. All my friends have told me this has been the worst season for colds/flu they've been through in recent memory. On the other hand, I keep dwelling on the frequency of my illnesses and how I've NEVER gotten sick like this in my life. Basically I'm terrified right now and am really hoping someone might have some reassurance or advice for me. Thank you so much in advance for the help!!!!

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Old 02-27-2013, 10:22 AM   #2
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Re: Hello! New member and terrified about autoimmune diseases

An ANA titre that is the lowest is not considered indicative of a disease state by rheumatologists, in the absence of symptoms. They can be raised by a passing virus, such as a cold and can also be elevated in relatives of people who do have an AI disease. Some people just have a slightly elevated test with no relatives with AI diseases and that is just normal. Age can also raise ANA levels. So your Dr's advice is quite correct. As far as colds go, this year has indeed been a bad one, it seems, but since yiu mention that you are a college prof, your students are probably just sharing different cold viruses that you haven't been exposed to yet. Nothing surprising or worrisome in that at all. As for internet searching, most searches take you to the worst things you can think of and are not valid, nor indeed real, and designed to take advantage of your fear. Sort of like a used car salesman who says that you are driving the worst car on the road and that it has been recalled numerous times and is defective and will kill you and your family so buy my car instead. The reality is that your car was recalled once because the paint around the trunk is slightly discoloured and someone noticed and the mfg had to fix that paint mismatch. Does that make sense? The internet is not a very good diagnostician. I hope this helps a little. Best of luck.

Old 02-27-2013, 11:24 AM   #3
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Re: Hello! New member and terrified about autoimmune diseases

As far as the rough spots in your mouth, those do not sound anything like lupus sores, which are like big canker sores, ulcers, that last a week or more and are often very painful. Your exposure to students coupled with the winter season is probably why you got 3 colds. There is nothing in your history to suggest an autoimmune disease, so I wouldn't worry. In fact, I would not even get your ANA checked again unless you develop concerning symptoms. The ANA by itself means nothing, so why go through the anxiety of repeat testing?

Old 03-06-2014, 12:51 PM   #4
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Re: Hello! New member and terrified about autoimmune diseases

Reading your post has just made me very anxious because I also had 3 cold in just 2 months and now I'm starting to wonder what it is. Right now I'm suffering from stomach flu with really uncomfortable nausea. I'm going to see my doctor tomorrow for reassurance.

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