Autoimmune disorders are tricky, as they can affect every person differently. They occur when your body’s immune system confuses bacteria and foreign cells with your own cells. Autoimmune disorders affect your skin and impact other parts of the body, such as the joints, muscles, body tissues, and certain organs. While some autoimmune disorders are genetic, others may come about when you least expect them due to lifestyle choices and other factors, so it’s important to be aware of how an autoimmune condition can affect your skin, and ultimately, your life. Here are three autoimmune disorders that target the skin and how they can be treated to allow you to live your life happily despite your condition.
Psoriasis is one of the more common and talked-about autoimmune disorders that impacts the skin, as it affects over seven million Americans alone. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, those with psoriasis are more likely to contract additional autoimmune disorders than those without psoriasis, making this something that you should discuss with your dermatologist sooner rather than later. Psoriasis is more than a rash and it is more than skin deep. Ranging from mild to severe, psoriasis comes in five different forms, with the most common form being plaque psoriasis. Those with plaque psoriasis will notice red, raised patches on their skin as well as dead skin cells that can appear as flaky patches with a silver to white color. Psoriasis can bring about a number of symptoms that vary from person to person, like joint stiffness, itching, inflammation, dryness, frequent headaches, and more.
Fortunately, psoriasis can be soothed and cleared up with a little help from your dermatologist and some trusty products and medications. Many will apply a medicated cream directly to the skin to clear up psoriasis, while others will take prescription medications that your dermatologist can recommend. For severe cases of psoriasis, your doctor may recommend phototherapy and other light treatments that will suppress your overactive immune system and halt the growth of the affected skin cells. If you have questions or concerns about psoriasis, be sure to speak with your dermatologist soon.
While you can see psoriasis taking hold of the surface of your skin, scleroderma works a little differently. This autoimmune disorder, which affects over 300,000 Americans and mostly women, impacts the connective tissues in your body, which means you will notice both skin changes and changes in your muscles and other organs. On the surface, scleroderma can lead to redness around the connective tissues in your hands and feet, but it can also leave your skin and your muscles feeling tight and painful.
There are two forms of scleroderma, with the first form being PSS, or progressive systemic scleroderma, which is sometimes referred to as systemic sclerosis, or SS. Those who struggle with this form can experience mild joint pain in the fingers, but also in more severe areas like the heart, lungs, kidneys, and the esophagus. CREST syndrome, the other form of scleroderma, has multiple symptoms that include the gathering of excess calcium under the skin, redness, esophagus dysfunction, tightening of the skin, and red blotches appearing on the affected areas of skin. Meet with your dermatologist to discuss potential treatment options, which may include anti-inflammatory medication, but the most widely-used treatment is immunosuppressive therapy.
While psoriasis is rash-like in appearance, bullous pemphigoid, also known as BP, takes things a step further. This disorder involves blistering of the skin, which can be painful and vary from person to person. Some cases are more mild, while others may experience large, painful blisters that come in multiple shapes, sizes, and colors. Many of the blisters tend to appear on parts of the skin that are typically flexed, while others may experience blisters in the mouth or down the throat.
This autoimmune disease is typically found on elderly adults, but it can appear on people of all ages, especially if it’s genetic or you spend more time out in the sun and the heat. There are varying symptoms in both mild and severe cases, so seeing your doctor immediately will allow them to determine the best treatment plan for you and your skin. Your dermatologist could prescribe a topical treatment, oral steroid, or an immunosuppressive agent to keep your immune system from continuing to attack itself.
While these are just a small handful of autoimmune diseases that can impact your skin, it’s important to pay attention to both your skin and your body to catch any concerns you may have early on. Taking good care of your skin is essential in both making you confident in your appearance, and having healthy, happy skin that you will love for many years to come.