So this thing that makes my vulva and vagina feel like it has a bad sunburn (sometimes a healing itchy one, sometimes a fresh hot painful one) is an autoimmune disorder, so I’m looking into autoimmune disorders to see what I can do to self-manage and care for my body.
I don’t like the idea that my body has decided to attack my vulva. She’s been through enough, so I’m hoping to turn that around.
What I’ve found is an epidemiological study looking at folks with PTSD and autoimmune disorders in soldiers with PTSD. [An aside: Soldiers are so much safer for people to wrap their heads around studying, aren’t they? They’re clearly not crazy, like those women who said they were raped in childhood… Thank Goddess we have them to provide a parallel example to validate with, but really…] No big surprise – folks with PTSD have more of them. Here’s the specifics:
“To date, studies have linked traumatic stress exposures and PTSD to such conditions as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, musculoskeletal disorders, and other diseases. Evidence linking cardiovascular disease and exposure to psychological trauma is particularly strong and has been found consistently across different populations and stressor events.” [BOSCARINO, J. A. (2004), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Physical Illness: Results from Clinical and Epidemiologic Studies. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1032: 141–153. doi: 10.1196/annals.1314.011]
So we are more likely to get all of the above as a result of trauma. Not a super large surprise if you know a lot of survivors, but nice that they did the research.
The second bit is how it affects our bodies.
“we assessed the association between chronic PTSD in a national sample of 2,490 Vietnam veterans and the prevalence of common autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, insulin-dependent diabetes, and thyroid disease. Our analyses suggest that chronic PTSD, particularly comorbid PTSD or complex PTSD, is associated with all of these conditions. In addition, veterans with comorbid PTSD were more likely to have clinically higher T-cell counts, hyperreactive immune responses on standardized delayed cutaneous hypersensitivity tests, clinically higher immunogolobulin-M levels, and clinically lower dehydroepiandrosterone levels. The latter clinical evidence confirms the presence of biological markers consistent with a broad range of inflammatory disorders, including both cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases.” BOSCARINO, J. A. (2004), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Physical Illness: Results from Clinical and Epidemiologic Studies. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1032: 141–153. doi: 10.1196/annals.1314.011
If you don’t speak medical-research language, what the above means.
The blood tests that people use to assess immune response are showing that people with PTSD have high levels of things that mean there is a problem with the immune system, and that people with those kinds of results usually have one or more health problems connected with inflammation (swelling), including heart and autoimmune problems. The also checked and people with PTSD, in addition to having these abnormal blood test results, also had more of the kinds of autoimmune diseases that you would expect of people with high levels of the things they tested for in their blood.
All right, now what fixes these high blood levels of bad stuff and makes the immune system calm down? What’s the research on that? I’m working on finding some credible sources to use for another post on that topic. Hang in there.