(Pictured above) The Genetics Team at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
Blog by Rebecca Okashah Littlejohn, MS, CGC, and Kimberly Nugent, MS, CGC
Certified Genetic Counselors
Department of Genetics
Did you know more than half of Americans affected by rare diseases are children?¹ Or that patients with rare diseases are frequently misdiagnosed or undiagnosed?¹ Or that you probably know or have seen an individual with a diagnosed or undiagnosed rare disease?
So what is a rare disease?
A rare disease is defined as any illness, condition, syndrome, disease, or disorder affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S.¹ More than half of Americans affected by rare diseases are children.¹ These diseases can affect a single organ or multiple organ systems. Most of these rare diseases have an underlying genetic cause. Understanding the underlying genetic cause for a disease can provide an individual with information about how the disease may affect the body, necessary medical management changes or inform other family members if they could have the same disease or a child with the same disease.
February 28 is a day to acknowledge all rare diseases. It is a day to advocate for those affected by these diseases whether it is your child, friend, colleague, coworker, family member, or a person you may have met at your doctor’s office. Depending on your closeness to the individual affected by the rare disease, advocacy will look different for everyone. Listening to an individual’s concerns and the challenges they face is the first step in advocating for those with a rare disease. Here are just a few other ways to advocate for individuals you know with rare diseases and the organizations that work to support them.