Autoimmune diseases can take a number of different forms, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and 75 less familiar diseases. These diseases often stem from a genetic predisposition, but also need an environmental factor to take hold. Although these triggers are poorly understood, some women claim that contraceptives, such as IUDs and birth control pills are the cause of their diseases. Out of the estimated 24 million Americans who suffer from these diseases, 80 percent are women.
Dr. Lisa Sammaritano, an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Hospital for Special Surgery and Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York, says the various parts of our immune systems are meant to fight off disease and infections, but sometimes, “our immune systems can turn against us,” causing inflammation within the body. The reason why this happens is not completely understood.
Dr. Kristen Demoruelle, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado-Denver, says that exogenous estrogen from oral contraceptives has been associated with increased risk of lupus, but it’s hard to come to any definitive conclusions because further research is needed.
The role of IUDs and other contraceptives as possible triggers of autoimmune disease is also undetermined. But according to Kristy Griffin, a woman who primarily suffered from Hashimoto’s disease, the use of an IUD caused her to contract Sjogren’s disease. She fears her life will never be the same as she faces her future symptoms.
- Dr. Lisa Sammaritano, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Hospital for Special Surgery and Weill-Cornell Medical College
- Dr. Kristen Demoruelle, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Colorado-Denver
- Kristy Griffin, Hashimoto and Sjogren’s disease sufferer