If you have any experience with autoinflammatory diseases, you know that there are a number of things they have in common.
Autoinflammatory diseases are:
- often confused with autoimmune diseases
- tend to have periods of active disease followed by times of feeling “normal”
With Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF), all of those things apply. It’s an annoying disease to have because it makes life very difficult during a flare.
If you break down the name, “Familial” implies that it’s related to your family. It’s a genetic disease that has the potential to be passed down to new generations. Specifically, it involves the presence of the HLA-B27 antigen–or at least it does for the roughly 50% of FMF patients who have this mutation.
The “Mediterranean” part comes from the fact that the groups most commonly affected are those whose ancestry lies around the Mediterranean.
Specifically, there is a higher rate of FMF in people with the following ancestry:
- North African
- Sephardic Jewish
However, the disease can affect anyone of any ancestry because genes can also spontaneously mutate.
“Fever” comes from how the disease presents itself. Autoinflammatory diseases are notorious for fevers and symptoms that mimic infections. FMF primarily causes fever and abdominal pain, but the pain can also affect the joints and the chest.
It’s a delight of a disease! (Yes, that’s sarcasm).
The frustrating part of FMF is that in-between times of fever and pain, periods referred to as “flares,” the body is often stable and may even feel normal. Then suddenly, one day, BAM! You’re down and out with FMF rearing its head.
Luckily, there’s at least one medication that has been used with success in calming down flares–and even preventing new flares from happening. (Not sarcasm!)
Now, while FMF can be managed, it’s important to know that there’s a possibility of a severe complication to the kidney. Amyloidosis can happen, which means abnormal proteins are deposited into specific organs–namely the kidney. That’s why many doctors recommend using cholchicine long-term since it might help prevent that complication from occurring.
How’s that for a crash course of FMF?