Autoimmune Skin Disorders – How Do You Differentiate These Various Skin Conditions?

Autoimmune skin conditions may be the only skin problem, or they may be a symptom of a more invasive autoimmune condition. It is considered an autoimmune condition when the immune system attacks healthy cells and must target diseases and unknown invaders. They are numerous and often misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed because the early symptoms look like other dermatological disorders.

Autoimmune blistering conditions, or bullous skin diseases, are the most common type of autoimmune disease that affects the skin. In these special cases, the proteins that hold the individual’s skin cells together are attacked by the immune system. The result is lesions and blisters. Although skin concerns are popularly associated with lupus, only 5% of lupus patients experience bullous skin symptoms.

Bullous pemphigoid is a disease in which fluid-filled blisters appear on the body. This disease is most common in older adults, and the blisters tend to appear on the arms, legs, or trunk. Medicines that inhibit the immune system and thus prevent it from causing this skin condition are the ones most doctors will prescribe if the condition is serious enough. The biggest side effect of this treatment is that your immune system also weakens against killing germs and diseases. Corticosteroids are also treatments that reduce inflammation.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is an autoimmune skin disease that targets those with celiac disease. Hives and itchy blisters usually develop on a person’s back or buttocks; This condition is addressed by eliminating all gluten-containing products from a person’s lifestyle. People with rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroidism or Sjögren’s disease are also known to suffer from this skin disease.

Lichen planus coexists with other autoimmune conditions. Alopecia is more common in patients with autoimmune hepatitis, lupus, and scleroderma, but can occur with any number of additional autoimmune disorders. The condition causes small purplish lesions that can be erosive. Lesions often cluster together and usually occur on the inside of the ankles and forearms, or on the shins, ankles, and heels. Oral lesions will also be present in approximately 75% of individuals with lichen planus.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition marked by rapid increase in skin cell formation. This leaves what is called “plaque” where raised patches of skin appear. The patches look like red swollen skin topped with dead silvery-white skin cells. These lesions normally occur on the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp. White people are most at risk of psoriasis, and it affects 4.5 million people in the United States.

Autoimmune skin conditions can be treated with anti-inflammatories, ointments, antibiotics and immunosuppressants. Make sure your general practitioner fully understands your current and past health conditions so you can make a definitive diagnosis. In addition to using any remedy a GP recommends for you, you will need to take extra care of your skin. This means using gentle soaps, hypoallergenic lotions, and avoiding prolonged sun exposure.

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