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National Infertility Awareness Week

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National Infertility Awareness Week Starts Today!

Welcome back, everyone!

Today’s post is dedicated to National Infertility Awareness Week. Infertility is a tough subject. It is surrounded by a swirling cloud of stigma, shame, guilt, depression, pain, loss, and fear. It used to be considered taboo to talk about fertility struggles openly.

Thankfully, people are much more open about their struggles now. The more open people are, the more we realize how common these issues are. There is a vast network of infertility support groups on social media. These social media support communities offer those struggling a sense of support. They also lessen the isolation felt by those who are struggling. Social media can be a powerful way to connect and support one another. These communities can be found using hashtags specific to the topic. #ttc and #infertility are a good place to start.

What is Infertility?

In simplest terms, infertility is the inability to get pregnant. The definition of infertility is the inability to get pregnant despite having regular unprotected sex for between six months and a year. The length of time depends on your age. Under age 35, it is considered infertility if you have tried to get pregnant for over a year but have not conceived. After age 35, the length of time is only six months. Fertility decreases over time after age 30. Your chances of becoming pregnant after age 35 are much lower. The length of time is decreased to six months so that any issues can be addressed quickly.

Infertility does not mean that you will never be able to have a child. Infertility is not the same as sterility. If a health problem is causing the issue it can be addressed. There are many factors that contribute to your ability to get pregnant. If one of those factors isn’t quite right, it can derail your ability to conceive. If both partners have fertility issues it can compound difficulty of getting pregnant. This occurs in around 20% of couples experiencing infertility. Medical intervention is always an option for couples that are unable to have a baby on their own.

What Causes Infertility?

Infertility can be caused by a lot of different health issues. Sometimes, there is no identifiable cause of infertility. Around 15% of couples that went through all the testing were unable to find any source for their struggle. Both men and women can have issues with fertility. It tends to affect both men and women pretty equally, but the causes are very different.

What Causes Infertility in Men?

The biggest cause of infertility in men is a problem with sperm. There are a lot of things that can affect sperm count or sperm quality. A low sperm count can make conception very difficult, if not impossible. A normal sperm count ranges anywhere from 15 million to 200 million sperm per millimeter. A low sperm count is considered anything under 15 million. A low sperm count doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant, it means it may take more tries. It’s a numbers game. The more attempts, the higher the odds. Another issue men can experience is low sperm motility. Low sperm motility just means that they don’t move quite as well. If the sperm aren’t strong swimmers, it makes it more difficult for them to reach the egg.

Sometimes external factors can affect a man’s sperm count or quality. Testicular injury can affect the production of sperm. Sperm count will typically return to normal as long as no permanent or long-term damage is done. Something as common as heat can also affect sperm. A recent study by Fertility and Sterility showed that the heat produced by electronics can affect sperm motility. It even found that it causes damage to the DNA in the sperm. If you put your laptop on your lap, be sure to use a special fan that goes under it.

Another common external factor that can affect sperm is medication, drugs, and alcohol. There are lots of different kinds of medications that are known to cause infertility. This is because they affect the production of sperm. Medications used to treat anxiety and depression, supplemental testosterone, anabolic steroids, hair loss treatments like Propecia, erectile dysfunction medicine, chemotherapy, and more can affect sperm. Heavy drinking, smoking cigarettes or marijuana, and other illegal drugs can also impact fertility.

What Causes Infertility in Women?

Infertility in women gets a little trickier. There are a lot of things that can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant. The biggest issue for women is not ovulating . If ovulation doesn’t occur, the egg doesn’t release from the ovary. No egg means no baby. One of the most common causes is a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It can also be a result of long-term birth control pills use. Ovulation will usually return to normal after a few months off of the birth control.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, falls under the category of problems with ovulation. PCOS is a disease that causes hormone imbalance. The hormone imbalance causes issues with ovulation. PCOS is one of the most common causes of infertility in women. PCOS is more common in obese women because of an associated insulin resistance. Other medical issues that affect ovulation are hypothalamic dysfunction, premature ovarian failure, and excess prolactin production. Most of these issues can be treated with hormones.

Another common cause of infertility is Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition that causes endometrial tissue to travel and grow outside of the uterus. Endometriosis can also affect the uterine lining. This can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. Endometriosis can cause scarring wherever it occurs. Scarring within the uterus or fallopian tubes can make it difficult for the egg to implant. There is an increase in fertility immediately following surgery. The surgical treatment to remove endometriosis can cause scarring later on. The most common symptoms of endometriosis is very heavy and very painful periods.

Uterine and cervical issues are also potential causes of infertility. The most common uterine problems are fibroids and myomas. Fibroids and myomas are benign polyps or tumors that develop. These non-cancerous growths can prevent an egg from implanting. Sometimes, they can grow near the fallopian tube and block the opening. Other uterine and cervical issues can occur at birth or during development. The uterus can be shaped abnormally. There is a cervical malformation called cervical stenosis. Cervical stenosis means that the cervix is narrower than it should be. This can make it difficult for the sperm to reach the uterus.

Unexplained Infertility.

Generally speaking, infertility is broken up into thirds. One third of infertility cases are due to female infertility. One third is due to male infertility. The remaining third is due to either a combination or unexplained infertility. There isn’t always a clear and direct cause of infertility. There may be a few minor issues that all intersect when trying to conceive. Some factors that can contribute to infertility are age, weight, smoking, alcohol, caffeine, past sexually transmitted infections, and stress. Most of these factors can be minimized by simple lifestyle changes.

Are There Tests to Diagnose the Cause of Infertility?

There are many diagnostic tests to figure out what is causing your infertility. For women, the first step is determining if infertility is being caused by ovulation issues. This is done with a simple blood test. The blood test measures the level of progesterone in the blood. The body produces more progesterone after ovulating. The doctor may also test for other blood levels, such as prolactin. There are also at-home ovulation prediction kits. These kits test for the increase in luteinizing hormone that is produced before ovulation.

Other tests may be done depending on what the blood tests show. If the tests show a problem with ovulation, the doctor may order other hormone tests in addition to ovarian reserve testing. Ovarian reserve testing is done to determine how many eggs there are and the quality of those eggs. Women over 35 are more likely to have these problems. If the tests show that ovulation is normal, other tests can be done to find out what else may be preventing pregnancy. These tests include hysterosalpingography, ultrasound, hysteroscopy and laparoscopy. These will look for abnormalities in the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

Can You Treat Infertility?

There are many things you can do to treat infertility. There are a handful of medicines that can stimulate ovulation for women. There are also other medications that used to treat specific issues like PCOS or high prolactin levels. In short, once you determine the source of the struggle, there are options to treat or fix the problem. If the issue stems from a structural problem, growth, blockage, scar tissue or endometriosis, there are surgical options to improve the issue.

If the issue can’t be corrected or improved with any of these therapies there are other methods. These methods are called reproductive assistance. Reproductive assistance is for people who have not been able to improve the cause of their infertility. It is also for couples who have been unable to determine the cause of infertility. The most common reproductive assistance methods are Intrauterine insemination and IVF.

Intrauterine insemination is a method that works by placing sperm inside the uterus around ovulation time. IVF is considered the most effective assisted reproductive method. IVF is a little more involved than intrauterine insemination. It requires egg retrieval and daily hormone injections. The eggs are combined with the sperm in a lab. Fertilized eggs are then implanted into uterus. If all else fails, there are always options such as adoption, sperm donation, egg donation, and surrogacy. If you want to become a parent, there is a way to make that happen.

It is important to realize that infertility is a fairly common problem. About one in eight couples will struggle with infertility. One of the biggest issues with infertility is the stigma surrounding it. Because infertility is personal in nature, some people try to hide their struggle and put on a brave face. Infertility is not a failure or a flaw. It is simply an obstacle, and it can be overcome with the help of a doctor. Remember to be kind to yourself, keep hoping for the best, and stay optimistic. One way or another, everything will be okay.

Thank you for reading! Check back in soon for a new post.


Sources: WebMD, Mayo Clinic

World Autism Awareness Day

Personalized Cause

“It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a child with autism to raise the consciousness of that village.” – Elaine Hall

World Autism Day – Light It Up Blue

Happy April, everyone! Spring has finally sprung and I couldn’t be happier about it. A new month means new awareness observances and awareness holidays. April has a lot of important awareness observances. Choosing which causes to discuss can be difficult when so many causes are worthy topics. To be comprehensive and educational, I have chosen to focus on one subject per post. As the years go on, every month will feature different causes than the year before. Over time each cause will get the attention it deserves.

Today I want to talk about Autism, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, World Autism Awareness Day & Light It Up Blue. Both holidays take place tomorrow (April 2nd). Before we get started, I want to give you guys a little background on World Autism Awareness Day and Light It Up Blue.

The History of World Autism Awareness Day.

In 2007, the United Nations voted to make April 2nd a universal day to promote awareness for Autism. In 2008, the first annual World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated. The United Nations dedicates itself to ensuring that the human rights of all people are honored. It is important for the UN to recognize Autism because it can affect learning, development, and communication. If a person with Autism has difficulty with any or all of those functions, it will impact the freedom and equality they receive.

Various therapies are used to treat Autism. The outcome is influenced by how soon the treatment is started. Access to Autism therapies can be determined by location and socio-economic status. This creates inequality for people with Autism living in places without access, or those without means. The United Nations dedicates itself to combatting inequality through policy and resources. Their goal is to create a world where someone with Autism has equal rights regardless of their limitations.

What does Light It Up Blue mean?

World Autism Awareness Day and Light It Up Blue are designed to raise awareness for ASD (autism spectrum disorders). This includes Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD – NOS). Light It Up Blue is an annual campaign held on World Autism Awareness Day. It uses the color blue to spread the message of awareness and acceptance worldwide. Every April 2nd, iconic landmarks around the world are lit up with blue lights to signify support for the Autism community.

Light It Up Blue is sponsored by an organization called Autism Speaks. The chairman of General Electric founded Autism Speaks in 2005. He and his wife founded the organization after their grandson was diagnosed with Autism. That connection may have been the inspiration behind the campaign. General Electric’s most iconic product is the light bulb. LIUB uses blue light bulbs to turn structures and buildings blue. Coincidence? I doubt it.

ASD. What Does Being On The Spectrum Mean?

First, let's talk about what being "on the spectrum" means. Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), has a wide range of symptoms. Someone with Autism may experience any, all, or a combination of these symptoms to varying degrees. Combinations of symptoms and the severity of those symptoms can vary drastically from patient to patient. Autism is referred to as a spectrum because of the wide range of symptoms. No two patients are exactly the same.

Personalized Autism Awareness Ribbon

Personalized Autism Awareness Ribbon

The Basics of Autism.

Autism is a neurobehavioral condition. It can affect development, communication skills, sensory processing, social skills, and more. Each person on the spectrum may exhibit different combinations of symptoms with varying degrees of severity. The severity of the symptoms affects what kind of limitations they experience.

Autism typically becomes apparent as children fail to reach developmental milestones. These occur during the first three years of their life. Some children can begin to shows signs as infants, but most symptoms become clear between 18 to 36 months old. Parents commonly describe their child as developing normally until around that time. Then they began to exhibit symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms may not arise until circumstances force them to the surface. This means that symptoms may go unnoticed until later than usual when a particular situation makes them appear.

People with Autism tend to have a difficult time processing different kinds of sensory stimulation. This may manifest as sensitivity to light, sound, touch, or smell. It can range from feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable to complete intolerance.

Autistic people may also experience some degree of cognitive impairment. This is in comparison to neuro-typical cognitive function. People with Autism tend to have delays or deficits in certain areas of development but not all. Cognitive impairment usually affects all areas, but people with Autism tend to show issues in only some areas. In contrast to their impairment, they may develop exceptional skills in other areas. This can show up as musical talent, memorization skills, an aptitude for math, and more.

Autism can also affect behavior. One behavior associated with Autism is repetitive movement, like rocking or pacing. In some cases, these repetitive movements can be self-injurious. They may develop attachments to certain objects. Narrow interests and obsessions with certain subjects are common. They may also be fearful or resistant to change. Change in routine can be especially difficult. Many parents of ASD children bond over their shared experiences with trying to get their child to try new foods or activities.

What Causes Autism?

While Autism is on the rise, it is not clear why. It may be from an increase in awareness or it may be that the incidence of the disorder is actually increasing. Autism is not caused by race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, lifestyle, geographic location, sex, or any other classification. Boys are more likely to develop Autism than girls. Some speculate that this is because girls with Autism are not diagnosed even though they may have it. It is believed that there are more girls with Autism than the statistics suggest. Socio-economic status does not cause Autism, but it can affect treatment and prognosis. The earlier someone with Autism begins treatment, the better the long-term outcome. A family’s inability to pay for such treatments may have a lasting effect on an Autistic person. Geographic location can be a factor if the family lives in remote or rural areas. Treatment facilities may be scarce or non-existent in less populated areas.

Autism appears to have a genetic component. It tends to run in families, although no specific genes have been identified yet. Researchers believe it may have something to do with irregular segments of genetic code or specific gene mutations. Whatever the genetic association is, it's clear that it can run in families. Another genetic factor is the age of the parents. The older the parents are, the higher the risk for the child.

Personalized Puzzle Pieces Awareness Ribbon for Autism

Personalized Puzzle Pieces Awareness Ribbon for Autism

What Are the Treatment Options Available for ASD?

Treatment options vary depending on the symptoms. There is a spectrum of treatment options to match the spectrum of symptoms. Treatments include behavioral and communications therapies, occupational therapy, sensory integration therapy. There are also medications to treat associated symptoms. Keep in mind there is no cure for Autism, and there are no medications developed specifically to treat it. Let’s dig into each of these therapy options a little.

There are quite a few behaviors and communication treatments when it comes to ASD. Each treatment uses different techniques to engage with the child and encourage learning. The type of therapy depends on which works best for that child. One of the most common is called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). ABA works to improve good behaviors and reduce bad ones using various techniques. This includes positive reinforcement, motivation, and communication skill development.

Another type of behavior and communication therapy is referred to as “Floor-time”. Floor-time is exactly what it sounds like. It involves getting on the floor with your child to interact with them doing the things they like. The intention is to build and encourage emotional skills, which stimulate intellectual growth.

There are two types of treatments that involve visual cues. The first is called TEACCH, which stands for Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-handicapped Children. The second is called PECS, which stands for Picture Exchange Communication System. The difference between the two is that TEACCH uses picture cards to teach, while PECS uses symbols.

Occupational therapy teaches children with ASD life skills. Occupational therapy helps them develop, maintain, or restore independence through skill development. These skills allow them to overcome obstacles that keep them from performing daily activities.

Sensory Integration Therapy helps children whose symptoms include sensory processing issues. Sensory Integration Therapy works by taking stimuli that a child is sensitive to and slowly exposing them to it in a controlled setting. Over time the child will acclimate to these stimuli so that they can function better.

Last, but not least, there are some medications that are used to help treat different kinds of issues that people with Autism can experience. There is a link between Autism and seizure disorders. One of the medications used to treat people with Autism and seizures is seizure medication. Other issues associated with Autism are trouble concentrating, depression and anxiety, and insomnia. These symptoms can be treated using medications. Risperdal has been FDA approved to treat irritability in people with Autism.

How Can I Help?

The biggest thing you can do to help those with Autism is to be supportive and understanding. Sometimes when kids with Autism get overwhelmed they have what is called a "meltdown". It's important to understand that children having a meltdown are suffering, not misbehaving. It is equally important to recognize that this is not related to a parenting issue. Parents often feel judged when their kids experience a meltdown in public. The root issue is a lack of understanding and awareness, not a shortcoming on the part of the parents or the child. People are quick to say, "if that were my kid…" followed by how they would handle the situation. It is unfair to the people involved and it perpetuates the judgment they experience.

Another way you can help is by educating yourself and others about Autism. Become an advocate for people affected by Autism with a universal symbol of support. Awareness ribbons are a simple yet powerful way to raise awareness. Awareness nurtures support, and support leads to more fundraising and more research. The awareness ribbon used to raise awareness for Autism is the puzzle pieces ribbon.

You can also help raise money by holding your own fundraiser. Donate the proceeds to the Autism organization of your choice. April 2nd is the perfect day to host a blue-themed bake sale to celebrate Light It Up Blue. If bake sales aren’t your thing, you can host a craft booth with old puzzle pieces. Paint the pieces white, grab some colorful sharpies and charge per puzzle piece. Crafts not really your thing either? No problem. Here's an easy one I came up with; Find a wall, make a blue backdrop for it, grab some blue accessories and boom! You've got yourself a Light It Up Blue themed photo-booth. Charge per photo, and don't forget to share it on social media using the hashtag #LIUB. If you prefer something more traditional, buy some puzzle pieces fabric awareness ribbons in bulk and resell them at a higher cost. Take the profits and donate them to the organization of your choice.

That’s all for today! Thanks so much for reading! Be sure to check back soon for my next post. And, HAPPY AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH!

Sources: Autism Speaks,, NIMH, WebMD

Rare Diseases Are More Common Than You Thought - Celebrate Rare Disease Day!

Personalized Cause

Rare Diseases Are More Common Than You Thought - Celebrate Rare Disease Day!

Hey guys! Me again. I know it’s been awhile, but I’m back with a new blog for all our wonderful readers. Today I’m going to talk about a subject that is near and dear to heart because I am a member of this community. So without keeping you guys all biting your nails in suspense, today we’re going to talk about RARE DISEASES in honor of RARE DISEASE DAY!

There is a saying in the medical community, and a rule by which most doctors live, and it goes like this: “If you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras.” This is what is known as Occam’s Razor. Occam’s Razor is a theory that basically states that the simplest answer is usually the correct one. The majority of the time, this is not only a logical rule to live by but also a practical and responsible one. If my box of Girl Scout cookies suddenly disappears, it was probably my husband, not a thief that broke in and stole only a box of Thin Mints. This way of thinking helps doctors make healthcare decisions. Rather than exposing a patient to painful and invasive diagnostic tests that are likely unnecessary, they look at the most probable source of the issue and limit their testing to that, saving the patient both time and money. Makes sense, right? The problem is that every now and then, those hoof beats are actually made by a zebra instead of a horse. For those patients, Occam’s Razor is a hindrance to their diagnosis and treatment.

This age-old saying was the source of inspiration for the rare disease awareness ribbon. Rare disease patients have affectionately adopted and appropriated zebra stripes to represent their cause.

Rare Diseases

Talking about rare diseases is so important for so many reasons. For starters, rare diseases get the least attention… from everyone, including the medical community and drug manufacturers. It’s not that people actively ignore rare diseases, it’s just that most people have either never heard of the conditions, or don’t understand them. Even most doctors do not usually see cases of even the more common rare diseases. A physician may go their entire career having never seen or heard of some of the diseases classified as rare diseases. This is especially problematic when trying to gain visibility in the rare disease community. It can be very difficult to raise awareness and raise money to support a cause that nobody has ever heard of. As you can imagine, it is hard to find support for a disease that has no celebrity spokesperson and a very small market for drug manufacturers. Not to mention that most people have never and will never be personally affected by it.

This sadly leaves many patients with rare diseases in a difficult position. Not only is it difficult to discover the correct diagnosis, but even with the diagnosis treatment options can be limited because of the lack of research and development invested into creating drugs to treat the disease. After you have overcome all of those issues, patients can still suffer because of the lack of experience their doctor has in treating that condition. There are so many obstacles like the ones described that rare disease patients face in their personal health journey.

So what is a rare disease, and what’s the deal with rare disease day? I’m glad you asked. Let me break it down for you.

First off, let’s talk about what rare diseases are. Obviously, they are diseases that are rare. I know you didn’t need me to figure that out. But what are the qualifications for a rare disease?

In the United States, a rare disease is considered any disease that affects less than 200,000 people. That sounds like a lot, but when you consider the fact that there are over 325 million people in the U.S., it really isn’t very many at all. There are somewhere around 7,000 rare diseases. With over 7,000 different kinds of rare diseases, it’s no wonder that it’s so hard for people to get their diagnosis. Can you imagine having to memorize 7,000 different rare diseases in med school that you were likely to never encounter? That would be nuts. Nobody would ever get through med school.

Doctors get a general overview of everything and then focus their time on the diseases they are most likely to be presented with. This is why it has fallen to the patients themselves to become advocates and raise awareness for rare diseases. But here’s the interesting part: Because there are around 7,000 different kinds of rare diseases, the number of people in the population who have been diagnosed with one is actually pretty high. It is estimated that around 1 in 10 people in the United States has a rare disease. 50% of rare disease patients are children. So, here we are… with this huge population of people who are unrepresented or underrepresented in the mainstream medical community. All these people want is a correct diagnosis, a good doctor, and some medicines to treat the disease. Yet it is a struggle to get all three. This is especially true for children who cannot articulate their symptoms well and cannot advocate for themselves. (Disclaimer: statistics vary by country.)

You can find our extensive list of Rare Diseases and Genetic Disorders HERE.

Rare Diseases and Genetic Diseases - Zebra VS. Blue Jeans

Many rare diseases are also considered genetic diseases. This has created a great deal of confusion when it comes to the appropriate awareness ribbon color. Should you pick the zebra awareness ribbon for rare diseases or the blue jeans awareness ribbon for genetic diseases? This comes up a lot. The truth is that you can use whichever awareness ribbon you prefer, but if you’d like to find the awareness ribbon category your disease falls under CLICK HERE. Around 80% of rare diseases are genetic.

Some rare diseases have organizations that have been able to raise enough awareness to be more visible than others. These diseases typically have their own special awareness ribbon outside of the zebra awareness ribbon. They have become the bigger fish in the small pond (assuming 7,000 fish can be considered a small pond. To be honest, I’m not really sure about the average number of fish in different sized ponds, so please forgive me if I’m wrong and focus on the metaphor.) Personalized Cause is currently working on the most extensive list ever of all diseases and the corresponding awareness ribbon colors for that cause. You can find the Rare Disease Master List HERE.

I bring this up for a couple reasons. Reason One: Raising awareness for each of these diseases is crucial in being able to treat and potentially cure them. It is also likely that a lot of these diseases could have shared treatments, and understanding one may lead to a breakthrough in another. It’s a “one for all, and all for one” situation. Reason Two: An awareness ribbon is a surprisingly powerful way to do that. You’d be surprised how many communities have been educated by one person with a ribbon who’s willing to become an advocate. On that same note, people tend to really empathize with a cause when they can put a name or face to it. People are generally good. They want to help. But it’s hard to become invested in a cause that you don’t understand when you can’t imagine the people affected by it. Personalized awareness ribbons are a great way to overcome that. CLICK HERE to see our personalized awareness ribbon "Pin-stagram" gallery.

Rare Disease Day

Another way the rare disease community raises awareness is with Rare Disease Day. Rare Disease Day is held annually on February 28. Everyone under the rare disease umbrella comes together to raise awareness, share their stories and wisdom, tips and tricks, and raise money for research and development to advance treatment options for patients.

Fun fact about Rare Disease Day: As I mentioned earlier, Rare Disease Day is held every year on February 28th. February 28th was chosen for a very specific reason. February 28th is the last day of February… most of the time. The first ever Rare Disease Day was held in 2008 on February 29th, also known as leap day. They held Rare Disease Day on a day that only comes around every 4 years, in other words a rare day. Since then, Rare Disease Day has been celebrated on the last day of February, which is usually the 28th. The next Rare Disease Day to take place on February 29th will be in 2020. Mark your calendars!

Rare Disease Day was created by EURODIS and began in Europe. The United States joined EURODIS in celebrating Rare Disease Day the following year. It has since become a worldwide event with over 90 countries participating. Every year Rare Disease Day events and media reach hundreds of thousands of people, which is a major win in the battle to raise awareness.

Participating in Rare Disease Day

There are lots of things you can do to participate in Rare Disease Day. Patients and individuals can sign up to host an event to raise awareness or a fundraiser. Remember the ice bucket challenge? Well, Rare Disease Day has a similar viral campaign. People participating in Rare Disease Day paint their faces and post photos of themselves on their social media accounts, using the hashtags #RareDiseaseDay and #ShowYourRare. This face paint social media campaign is a way to show support, raise awareness, and share your story. You can also upload your photo directly to their website, which is a really cool way to share your health journey with others who may find similarities and hope in your experience.

Click here to visit

Raise Awareness for Rare Diseases - Be an Advocate!

Sharing your story can have a huge impact on the people who identify with your story. When I was young, somebody told me that I should be open about my health and my journey because you never know how much someone may need to hear what you have to say. It always stuck with me. As I got older, I realized how true it was. There have been a handful of moments in my life when somebody said something that resonated so deeply within me that it actually changed my perspective and my life. They weren’t even anything particularly insightful. They just happened to be what I needed to hear at that moment to feel validated and inspired.

Becoming an advocate is making the decision to put yourself out there in hopes that you may help others. Being an advocate can be on a personal level, by educating those around you, or on a public level, by sharing your story with the world. There is no wrong way to advocate for yourself and others. I encourage everyone on a personal health journey to share your story. The benefits are far-reaching, for you and for people you may not even know. Nothing will make you feel more supported, reassured, and understood than talking to a community of people who have dealt with something similar. And, like I said, you never know how your words may impact someone else.

On that note, I’m going to wrap up today’s blog. I’d like to leave you with a quote that I stumbled across on the Global Genes website, which is an organization for genetic diseases, many of which are rare diseases.

“When “I” is replaced by “we” even illness becomes wellness.” -Sushan R. Sharma

Stay Out of the Sun Day

Personalized Cause


Today is Stay Out of the Sun Day!

Hey guys! Thanks for stopping by for this week’s awareness blog entry! Today is a particularly relevant topic, especially considering the holiday tomorrow. I hope you’ve all enjoyed your week. I’m sure you’re all dying to get through the day so you can enjoy your mid week day off to celebrate the Fourth of July. I cannot wait! I think this year is gonna be the best Fourth of July yet, since I’ve got lots of secret things planned for a certain someone special’s 30th birthday. Can’t divulge more cause it’ll ruin the surprise, but I’ll fill you all in next week. Anyway, today’s post has a lot to do with tomorrow. Today is Stay Out of the Sun Day! Stay Out of the Sun Day is celebrated every year on July third, as a reminder to protect your self from the harmful effects of the sun. People tend to spend all day on the Fourth of July having fun outside barbequing, playing games, working on a base coat, and enjoying a few ice cold drinks. So, the day before the Fourth, remember to include sun protection in your plans for holiday celebrations.

So, the sun… It’s a great thing. Without the sun we wouldn’t even be here, so before I start bashing the sun for all it’s harmful effects, I just want to point out that I am generally in favor of its’ existence. I also realize that there are benefits to sun exposure, such as vitamin D and it certainly does do wonders for your mood if you suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder). There are some undeniable draw backs to basking in the sun, too, though, and today were going to discuss that so that we know exactly what we need to protect ourselves from. Hint: it’s mainly skin related. But skin is important! It’s your body’s largest organ, and it keeps all your tissues and organs protected, so we really should do the best we can to protect it.

In many parts of the world, like the United States, we perceive a bronze glow as a signifier of health and youth. In reality, creating that tan and maintaining that tone is the opposite of healthy. Unprotected exposure to the sun, or even the use of tanning beds, is one of the worst things you can do for your skin. Sun exposure causes skin cancer and premature again. In fact, most of what people consider to be the natural effects of aging on the skin are actually a result of sun exposure. This is because people are generally exposed to the sun consistently throughout their lives. The more time you’ve been exposed, the more you will develop those signs of age. They should really be considered signs of sun exposure rather than signs of aging, actually. Now, I’m in no way saying everyone should avoid the sun because it’ll make you look old. First off, you’ll eventually look old no matter what. Don’t think that you can ever completely avoid aging. Second, getting older is a wonderful thing and it shouldn’t be treated as some kind of dirty word or something to be afraid of. Enjoy your life! Just be smart about your sun exposure.

The sun emits ultraviolet rays, also referred to as UV rays. Ultraviolet rays slowly destroy elastin, which are little fibers found in the skin that are responsible for elasticity. As the elastin is damaged through exposure to UV rays, the fibers begin to break down and eventually, the skin will develop wrinkles and sag, while also causing the skin to become thinner. When the skin thins, it is easier for it to bruise and tear, and it also makes it more difficult for the skin to repair itself and heal from these bruises and tears. The damage done to your skin from sun exposure usually does not become apparent until many many, years later, so people sometimes don’t realize how harmful their sun exposure habits are until significant damage has already been done.

The most dangerous consequence of sun exposure is skin cancer. People tend to have a less concerned attitude towards skin cancer for some reason. It may be because they believe that they will see it before it develops into something life threatening, or because people think that if they do develop skin cancer you just have the dermatologist remove it and you’re cured. Neither of those things is exactly true. For starters, no person can be one hundred percent certain of everything going on with their skin. Usually, people only notice something after something has obviously changed, and there are plenty of places that we can’t see. As far as removal goes, yes you can have skin cancer removed, but it can spread and become much more serious before you realize it’s there. Not to mention that skin cancer removal leaves a sometimes nasty scar, and considering that skin cancer often occurs in the places that are exposed to the sun the most (for example the side of your face that the sun hits when you’re driving), that’s something that you might want to avoid.

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in America, but it’s also one of the easiest cancers to prevent with appropriate sun protection. Skin cancer occurs when abnormal skin cells begin growing at an out of control rate. These abnormal cells reproduce until they become a tumor. A tumor can either be cancerous, or non cancerous. Noncancerous tumors are called benign tumors, and cancerous tumors are called malignant tumors. There are three kinds of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

There is a list of criteria for helping people evaluate any changes on their skin to determine whether or not something may be melanoma. The trick to remembering the criteria is as simple as the first handful of letters of the alphabet. It’s called the ABCDE rule. The A in the ABCDE rule stands for asymmetry. This means that the growth is not symmetrical on both sides. If one half does not match the other, then it is asymmetrical. The B stands for borders. If the growth has irregular borders, meaning that the edges seem undefined, blurry, or not a smooth line, then you should get it looked at. The C stands for color. The color of melanoma may resemble something like the color of a mole, but it may also be many other colors, especially when the shades of color are uneven. If the growth is brown, black, tan, red, white or blue with some parts light or darker than the rest, you should get it checked out. The D stands for diameter. Anything larger than the size of a pencil eraser needs to be evaluated by a doctor, ASAP. Any mole that has suddenly changed shape or grown in circumference should be brought to your doctor’s attention. Lastly, the E stands for evolving. Any mole or growth that is changing needs to be looked at by a doctor. Those changes can be related to the color, size or shape of the mole or growth.

Skin cancer is generally diagnosed through a biopsy, which is when the doctor removes part of the growth and sends it to a lab to be analyzed for presence of cancer. If the biopsy comes back positive for cancer, aka malignant, then the doctor will develop a strategy for treating it. Skin cancer treatment is determined by a few factors, and treatment is personalized to meet the specific needs of that particular skin cancer. Depending on the type of skin cancer, there may be some fairly non-invasive treatment options. Aggressive skin cancers will require aggressive treatment.

Remember, it’s never too late to start protecting yourself from sun exposure. You may think that the damage is done, and that there’s no point in sunscreen or hats now, but you’re wrong. Even though skin can never completely recover from skin damage, continuous and vigilant sun protection measures can allow the skin to improve over time. There are all kinds of sunscreens now for whatever your particular needs may be. For example, I am acne prone with oily skin, despite being nearly 30, and regular sunscreen clogs my pores and makes me break out. That used to discourage me from wearing any sunscreen at all. Considering how fair I am, that was extra stupid. I recently found a sunscreen spray that I can spray over makeup, and it has totally changed the game for me. So, whatever your particular needs, don’t let anything stop you from continuing the search for one that works for you. You’ll thank yourself later!

That’s all, folks! Catch you next week!

If you’re a first time reader, let me welcome you to the Personalized Cause awareness blog! Personalized Cause is an awareness accessory brand located in California that specializes in custom awareness ribbons. Custom awareness ribbons allow customers the ability to engrave any text they choose onto the awareness ribbon they want. We are the only company in the United States to offer this kind of product to our customers without a minimum order quantity. That means you can order as few as just one custom awareness ribbon, if that’s all you want. Custom awareness ribbons are a beautiful and powerful way to support someone going through a health crisis, or someone on an ongoing health journey. Sometimes, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what to say to someone who is struggling. Our custom awareness ribbons are a silent show of love and support for those times. They are also a wonderful way to advocate for yourself or a loved one, or raise awareness for your cause. And if custom awareness ribbons aren’t really your thing, no worries! We also carry classic awareness ribbons, fabric ribbons, and silicone wristbands. Whatever your awareness accessory needs are, we’ve got you covered. I hope you’ll join us next week for another edition of the Personalized Cause awareness blog!

Orange awareness ribbons are used to raise awareness for non-melanoma skin cancer. Black awareness ribbons are used to raise awareness for melanoma.

To order a custom orange awareness ribbon for non-melanoma skin cancer, visit:

To order a custom black awareness ribbon for melanoma, visit:

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World Scleroderma Day

Personalized Cause


Happy World Scleroderma Day!

Hey buddies!!! What’s up? Glad you could stop by for another fun and informative awareness blog post. Because the only thing more fun than learning is nothing. In all seriousness, these awareness blog posts have come in so handy in my daily interactions with people. You would be shocked how relevant this information is during my Uber and Lyft rides. I don’t know why my drivers always seem to be able to have some situation that relates back to my newfound medical knowledge, but I love it. It’s kind of cool and surprising how much you really connect with people when you know a little bit about something that has affected their lives. I find that the level of human interaction is so much less superficial. I mean clearly these conversations keep arising from them asking me what I do. As soon as I answer that I work at an awareness accessory company writing their awareness blog, complete strangers just start pouring their lives out to me. It’s awesome to connect! I’m sure some of you guys have had similar experiences with your newfound medical knowledge, too. Anyway, I’ll get back to blogging now and stop telling you guys about my experiences with drivers. Today we are going to talk about scleroderma. I’m sure many of you remember that we have covered scleroderma before. We’re going to talk about it again today in honor of World Scleroderma Day, which is today.

Happy World Scleroderma Day, everyone! Every June 29, scleroderma organizations around the world observe World Scleroderma Day. The reason June 29 was chosen as the date is because on June 29, 1940, the famous Swiss painter Paul Klee died. Paul Klee is probably the most internationally renowned celebrity to have had scleroderma. Much of Klee’s later work was influenced by the progression of his disease. The work that nears his last years has very visual interpretations of his experiences and symptoms as a man with the scleroderma. His last few painting before his death seemed to reflect the pain he suffered from the disease. He was a brilliant artist, and he is one of my personal favorites. If you haven’t heard of him, I highly recommend taking a peek at his work. Klee was a prolific artist, creating something like 9,000 works of art. Not to mention all the other cool stuff he did. Maybe I’ll mention it a little. He did extensive work in Color Theory, and taught at Bauhaus, which is a famous German art school from 1919-1933 that had a tremendous influence on the art world. He was a super cool dude. If you’re into art you probably already this.

So… scleroderma. Let’s learn a little bit about the disease so we can understand Klee’s artwork a little more deeply. Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin, tissue and organs. It is a progressive disease, but it can often be managed with medications and other kinds of treatment. Scleroderma is a pretty rare disease. There are only around 100,000 people with scleroderma in the United States. The disease affects mostly women, generally between the ages of 30 and 50. Like all autoimmune diseases, the cause of scleroderma is unknown, and again, like other autoimmune diseases, genetics do seem to elevate your risk for developing the disease. People who have relatives that suffer from other autoimmune diseases, or scleroderma itself, may be more at risk for the disease. It can also develop in children, even though typical diagnosis usually takes place in women between the age of 30 and 50.

Autoimmune diseases like scleroderma are caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy cells. A normal immune system is the body’s defender. The autoimmune system is responsible for fighting off any foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses. With autoimmune diseases, the immune system starts attacking the body’s healthy cells rather than just the stuff that causes illnesses. Every autoimmune disease attacks the body differently. Each disease has a particular way that it behaves in terms of what it chooses to attack. With scleroderma, the immune system causes inflammation in the skin, tissues and organs. The most common symptom associated with scleroderma is a thickening or tightening of the skin, but it may also cause scarring in the lungs, heart, kidney’s and intestines.

Let’s dive a little deeper now that we have that basic overview. I want to first start off by saying that scleroderma is different from patient to patient. The disease is mild and easily managed for some, while it can be life threatening for others. Patients may experience different symptoms, and different forms of the disease. There is no roadmap for predicting how the disease may affect any particular patient. It’s one of those things in life that you just have to deal with as it comes. There are two main forms of scleroderma, which are localized scleroderma and systemic scleroderma.

Localized scleroderma mainly affects the skin, though it may also progress to include muscles, joints, and bones. Localized scleroderma, though it may be serious, is not as dangerous as systemic scleroderma because it does not affect the internal organs. Usually, localized scleroderma presents with morphea, which is medical term for patches of discoloration on the skin, and linear scleroderma, which is the name for bands of thickened, hard skin that may appear as streaks or lines on the arms or legs. There is a special name for linear scleroderma when it appears on the face or forehead, which is coup de sabre.

Systemic scleroderma is the most pervasive form of the disease, and also the most potentially serious. With systemic scleroderma, it affects more of the body. In addition to the skin, muscles, joints and bones, it also may affect the blood vessels, heart, lungs, kidneys, intestines, or other internal organs. Needless to say, scleroderma that attacks the internal organs may lead to death. There are two different classifications of systemic scleroderma, which are CREST syndrome (limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis), and diffuse cutaneous systemic scleroderma. Crest syndrome is affects mostly the skin of the fingers and toes and may cause nodules under the skin. Crest syndrome is often associated with Raynaud’s phenomenon. It may also cause difficulty with movement of the esophagus, pulmonary hypertension, and dilated blood vessels. With the second type of systemic scleroderma, diffuse cutaneous systemic scleroderma, it tends to involve the internal organs more. It may also affect the skin on the hands and wrists. This type of scleroderma causes the organs to build up scar tissue and over time the organ essentially hardens and “freezes”.

Because scleroderma is such a complicated disease, it is important that people with the disease to find rheumatologists who either specialize in scleroderma or have extensive experience dealing with it. There is no cure for scleroderma, however there are many different kinds of treatments and therapies that can be very effective in managing and controlling the progression of the disease. Treating scleroderma usually means trying to keep it at bay and prevent further damage from occurring. There are many different kinds of medications that can be used to manage symptoms. Patients will likely be put on anti-inflammatory drugs to minimize the severity of inflammation that can lead to permanent damage. Physical therapy and occupational therapy are also helpful preventative measures to help maintain flexibility or the skin and joints.

Scleroderma can be a potentially life threatening chronic autoimmune disease, but it is often manageable with the right treatment once your doctor figures out the best course of action. People with scleroderma lead happy, fulfilling lives, and learn to work around their illness and adapt to it as necessary.

Happy World Scleroderma Day, everyone! I hope you enjoyed today’s awareness blog entry and brief art history lesson. Again, I highly recommend looking into Paul Klee if you’re into art. I really love him, and there’s no shortage of work! That’s all for today. I’ll see you back here next week for another awareness blog post. Hope you all have a wonderful week!

If you’re a new reader, let me welcome you to the Personalized Cause awareness blog! Personalized Cause is an awareness accessory brand that specializes in custom awareness ribbons. Custom awareness ribbons are a unique way to raise awareness for your cause, advocate on someone’s behalf, or show support for someone when you may now know exactly what to say. Our custom awareness ribbons allow customers to personalize their awareness ribbon with any text they choose. The thing that makes our custom awareness really special is the fact that there is no minimum quantity order for custom awareness ribbons. Customers can simply order one custom pin or twenty different custom pins. Whatever your awareness ribbon needs, we’ve got you covered. If you’re not in the market for custom awareness ribbons, no problem. We also carry classic awareness ribbons, fabric awareness ribbons and silicone wristbands. Personalized Cause believes in the power of awareness. We’ve seen how one small awareness ribbon can transform a community. We know that educating people makes a difference. That’s why we’ve created the Personalized Cause awareness blog. We feel it is our duty to help raise awareness for the things that affect our customers every day. Our mission with this awareness blog is to create an awareness domino effect by educating our readers on as many causes and illnesses as possible. I hope you’ll join us here next week for another edition of the Personalized Cause awareness blog.

Teal awareness ribbons are used to raise awareness for scleroderma. To order a custom teal awareness ribbon, visit:

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