In the United States, March is autoimmune disease awareness month and the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) is promoting family health and autoimmune awareness with AQ (Autoimmune Quotient).

Your AQ is essentially about gathering family health history and current symptoms to analyze the likeliness of developing an autoimmune disease. Virginia T. Ladd, the president and executive director of AARDA, explained "before an autoimmune disease patient receives a proper diagnosis, someone has to think of it first. While this may seem an elementary concept, it may be one of our most challenging obstacles as most physician patient history forms do not ask whether the patient's family has a history of autoimmune disease, even though we know that autoimmune diseases tend to cluster in families. Often this leads to years of misdiagnosis or no diagnosis at all."

One in five Americans, mainly women, suffer from autoimmune diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines autoimmune diseases as "any disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the cells, tissues, and organs of a person's own body. There are many different autoimmune diseases, and they can each affect the body in different ways. For example, the autoimmune reaction is directed against the brain in multiple sclerosis and the gut in Crohn's disease."

Ladd continued, "This campaign empowers patients to take matters into their own hands and ensures that they receive proper care by learning the facts about their family history and filling in the gaps for physicians, whether they ask for them or not."

Here are eight steps to know your family's AQ:

Step 1 - Understand that autoimmune diseases is a major health crisis

Step 2 - Get educated

Step 3 - Be aware that autoimmune diseases target women

Step 4 - Know that autoimmune diseases run in families

Step 5- Do your own family medical history

Step 6 - Keep a ‘symptoms' list

Step 7 - Realize that getting an autoimmune disease diagnosis is often challenging

Step 8 - Hold the power to protect your family's future health and wellbeing in your hands

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