People who suffer itching with no clear cause may have previously unrecognized immune system defects. In a small study of such patients, researchers from the Center for the Study of Itch at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis identified immune system irregularities that may prompt the urge to scratch.
The findings are reported in the May issue of The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
“As doctors, we throw things like antihistamines, ointments and lotions at patients who suffer chronic itching, but if there is something profoundly abnormal about the immune system — as it appears there is — then we can’t solve the itching until we address those underlying causes,” said principal investigator Brian S. Kim, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Dermatology. “The immune system needs to be in balance, and we hope to find ways to restore that balance in patients with this very debilitating condition.”
The researchers took blood samples and skin biopsies from a small sample of patients — only four are reported in the study — to look for immune problems. They found “an incredible amount of dysfunction,” Kim said, adding that he has seen similar defects in numerous additional patients not included in the current study.
The four patients researchers zeroed in on were ages 75 to 90. In blood samples, three of those four had high levels of the protein IgE — an immunoglobulin that is a marker of inflammation. Immunoglobulins are antibodies deployed by the immune system to fight infections. Elevated levels of IgE often are seen in patients with allergies.
The researchers also noted very low levels of an immunoglobulin known as IgG; abnormally low counts of a type of immune cell called a CD8 T-cell; and an elevated number of immune cells called eosinophils, which are markers of allergic inflammation.
“Curiously, none of these patients had any history of allergic disorders,” Kim said. “We often see similarly high counts of eosinophils in patients with eczema, but the patients we studied didn’t have eczema. They didn’t even have a rash. Only itching.”
First author Amy Xu and principal investigator Brian S. Kim, MD, found that immune system defects may help explain chronic itching in some patients. (Photo: Robert Boston/School of Medicine)
Kim explained that dermatologists frequently take skin biopsies when a patient has a rash, but with chronic itching of unknown origin, which doctors call chronic idiopathic pruritis, there is nothing evident to biopsy.
The study’s first author, Amy Xu, a medical student in Kim’s lab, said most patients with this type of unexplained, chronic itching tend to be older and develop itching problems later in life.
“It may be caused by some sort of wear and tear on the immune system,” Xu said.
Because of the small number of patients in the study, it’s too soon to draw firm conclusions, but the itching may be an indication that something else in the body is going wrong, Kim said.
“We have begun working on a mouse model in which the animals have similar defects,” he said. “We want to learn whether these changes in the immune system create only itching or whether they could be signs that some other problem is present.”
- This work was supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant number K08 AR065577-01, 1K08 AI113184-01A1, P30 DK52574 and U19 AI070489. Other funding was provided by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Medical Fellows Program and the American Skin Association.
- Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
- Is an itchy scalp linked with hair loss?
- Scalp Conditions
- Hairloss, severe mouth ulcers, skin rashes? Get yourself checked for autoimmune diseases
- Superfoods To The Rescue! Get Your Dose Of Health-Boosting Antioxidants
- International Yoga Day: Asanas For Women To Stay Youthful, Happy And Healthy
- What is autoimmunity?
- What are the typical skin symptoms of autoimmune diseases?
- What are the blood tests for autoimmune diseases?
- How are rheumatic skin conditions treated?
- What are treatment options for lupus skin disease?
- How are skin problems from dermatomyositis treated?
- How does scleroderma affect the skin?
- How Do You Treat Autoimmune Skin Conditions?
Originally published by the School of Medicine
The following conditions and factors can cause both an itchy scalp and hair loss:
Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes a very itchy red rash to form. Ringworm and other fungal infections can weaken a person’s hair follicles, which can lead to hair loss.
People with ringworm may notice distinct patches of hair loss on the scalp.
Prescription antifungal creams can treat scalp ringworm, and the hair will regrow after treatment.
Allergic reactions to hair products can irritate the scalp and hair follicles, resulting in itching. In most cases, the reactions are mild, and any scalp irritation or inflammation is temporary. However, if the irritation persists, it can damage the hair follicles and cause hair loss.
People can have this type of allergic reaction to any product that they use on their hair, including:
- hair dye
- hair gel
- hair mousse
A common cause of allergic scalp reactions is a chemical called paraphenylenediamine, which is a component of many black hair dyes.
Allergy creams or medications can often treat the itchiness. If a product causes an allergic reaction, it is important to stop using it and try switching to a different brand if necessary. People may benefit from using gentle products that contain fewer harsh chemicals.
Share on PinterestA person can treat folliculitis with antibiotics when a bacterial infection is the cause.
Folliculitis is the inflammation of hair follicles.
Typical causes of folliculitis include bacterial or fungal infections.
The infection can often cause temporary hair loss in addition to itching.
People can get rid of folliculitis by treating the bacterial or fungal infection with antibiotics or antifungal medications respectively.
Lichen planopilaris is a condition that causes the scalp to become inflamed. Scientists believe that lichen planopilaris is the result of a compromised or weak immune system. It can cause itchiness, scaly skin, and hair loss.
Alopecia areata is a condition that can cause small patches of hair to fall out. It can also cause scalp itchiness.
Although scientists are not sure exactly why alopecia areata occurs, they believe that it develops because a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles. The condition is most common in people with an autoimmune disease or a family history of one.
Standard treatments for these conditions often include:
- antifungal medications and ointments
People who experience hereditary hair loss may have success using one of the following treatments:
- hair transplants
- minoxidil (Rogaine)
- finasteride (Propecia)
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 80 million men and women in the United States have hereditary hair loss.
Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema that causes a red rash and itchiness. Although it is not a direct cause of hair loss, atopic dermatitis can lead to excessive scratching, which may cause temporary hair loss.
People can treat atopic dermatitis using creams and ointments. A healthcare professional can provide advice on treatment options.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes dry, red patches with a covering of silvery scales to form around a person’s trunk and major joints. Psoriasis scales can also develop on the scalp, and they can often be itchy.
Hair loss might occur if a person scratches the psoriasis scabs on their scalp and the scabs fall off.
People can develop a treatment plan with their doctor to manage their psoriasis.
Dandruff causes a dry, itchy scalp. A person often notices flaking skin throughout the day and after scratching. Dandruff can cause hair loss, but this is very rare. Typically, dandruff only causes hair loss if a person goes for extended periods without treating it.
Treatment options include over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos, ointments, and creams.
There are many different types of scalp conditions, resulting from a variety of causes. Here’s a list of 15 possible scalp conditions.
Warning: Graphic images ahead.
- You may notice a large amount of hair in the drain after you wash your hair.
- You may find clumps of hair in your brush.
- Hair that falls out easily with gentle pulling may be a sign of hair loss.
- Thinning patches of hair may also indicate hair loss.
Read full article on hair loss.
Male pattern baldness
- Hair loss at the temples of the head is a possible sign of male pattern baldness.
- Some with male pattern baldness develop a bald spot or hairline that recedes to form an “M” shape.
Read full article on male pattern baldness.
Seborrheic eczema (cradle cap)
Share on PinterestImage by: Starfoxy/commonswiki
- This common and self-limiting skin condition is seen in infants and young children between the ages of 3 weeks and 12 months.
- It’s painless and non-itchy.
- Yellowish, greasy scales appear on the scalp and forehead that flake off.
- It usually doesn’t require medical treatment and will go away on its own in 6 months.
Read full article on seborrheic eczema.
This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.
- Malnutrition is deficiency of one or many dietary vitamins or nutrients due to low intake or poor absorption in the intestines.
- It may be caused by disease, medications, or poor diet.
- The symptoms of a nutritional deficiency depend on which nutrient the body lacks.
- Common symptoms include weight loss, fatigue, weakness, pale skin, hair loss, unusual food cravings, trouble breathing, heart palpitations, fainting, menstrual issues, and depression.
Read full article on malnutrition.
- Psoriasis typically results in scaly, silvery, sharply defined skin patches.
- It’s commonly located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back.
- It may be itchy or asymptomatic (producing or showing no symptoms).
Read full article on scalp psoriasis.
- Noticeable symptoms usually don’t start until later in the disease process.
- Symptoms include brittle hair and nails, hair loss, and dry skin.
- Fatigue, weight gain, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, and depression are other symptoms.
Read full article on hypothyroidism.
Share on PinterestImage by: Myself (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons
- This is a fungal infection that affects your scalp and hair shafts.
- Itchy, flaky patches appear on the scalp.
- Brittle hair, hair loss, scalp pain, low fever, swollen lymph nodes are other possible symptoms.
Read full article on tinea capitis.
Share on PinterestImage by: Drahreg01 (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons
- Hashimoto’s disease is caused by an inappropriate immune response to the thyroid gland.
- Low thyroid hormone causes symptoms of decreased metabolism.
- Symptoms include thinning hair, sluggishness, fatigue, and hoarseness.
- Other symptoms include constipation, high cholesterol, depression, and lower body muscle weakness.
Read full article on Hashimoto’s disease.
Share on PinterestImage by: Abbassyma at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) , via Wikimedia Commons
- Alopecia areata is a skin condition that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.
- Hair loss occurs randomly all over the scalp or other parts of the body in small, smooth, quarter-sized patches that may combine into larger areas.
- Hair loss is often not permanent, but hair may grow back slowly or fall out again after regrowth.
Read full article on alopecia areata.
- A louse is about the size of a sesame seed. Both lice and their eggs (nits) may be visible in the hair.
- Extreme scalp itchiness can be caused by an allergic reaction to louse bites.
- Sores may appear on your scalp from scratching.
- You may feel like something is crawling on your scalp.
Read full article on head lice.
Image by: Goulet O et al. , via Wikimedia Commons
- Bamboo hair is a defect in the structure of hair that results in brittle or fragile hair strands that break easily.
- It leads to sparse hair growth, and eyelash or eyebrow loss.
- Hair strands have a dry, knotty appearance.
- It’s a common symptom of Netherton’s syndrome.
Read full article on bamboo hair.
Share on PinterestImage by: James Heilman, MD (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons
- This uncommon disorder may affect the skin, oral cavity, scalp, nails, genitals, or esophagus.
- Lesions develop and spread over the course of several weeks or a few months.
- Itchy, purplish-colored lesions or bumps with flat tops appear that may be covered by thin, white lines.
- Lacy-white lesions in the mouth occur that may be painful or cause a burning sensation.
- Blisters that burst and become scabby are another possible symptom.
Read full article on lichen planus.
Share on PinterestImage by: AVM (talk) 02:54, 9 January 2009 (UTC) (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons
- This autoimmune disease is characterized by changes in the texture and appearance of the skin due to increased collagen production.
- Skin thickening and shiny areas develop around the mouth, nose, fingers, and other bony areas.
- Symptoms include swelling fingers, small, dilated blood vessels under the skin’s surface, calcium deposits under the skin, and difficulty swallowing.
- Spasms of the blood vessels in the fingers and toes cause these digits to turn white or blue in the cold.
Read full article on scleroderma.
Share on PinterestImage by: Rashy100 at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) , via Wikimedia Commons
- This disease occurs when the immune cells within a bone marrow graft don’t match the recipient’s cells, causing the donor cells to attack the recipient’s cells.
- The most commonly involved organs are the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and liver.
- It can occur within 100 days after transplantation (acute GVHD) or over a longer period of time (chronic GVHD).
- A sunburn-like itchy, painful rash appears that can cover up to 50 percent of the body.
- Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, bloody stools, and dark urine are other possible symptoms.
Read full article on graft-versus-host disease.
Share on PinterestImage by: Layne Harris/Wikimedia
- This parasitic disease is caused by the Leishmania parasite, which infects sand flies.
- The sand flies that carry the parasite typically reside in tropical and subtropical environments in Asia, East Africa, and South America.
- Leishmaniasis comes in three forms: cutaneous, visceral, and mucocutaneous.
- It causes multiple crusting skin lesions.
Read full article on leishmaniasis.
Hairloss, severe mouth ulcers, skin rashes? Get yourself checked for autoimmune diseases
DON’T TAKE SYMPTOMS LIGHTLY
Autoimmune diseases cannot be prevented, said Jois. But early recognition and treatment is important. Once you can manage it with medication, you can arrest the spread of the diseases to other organs. For example, lupus can spread to the kidneys. In fact, for a woman with lupus, there’s a 60% chance of developing kidney disease during her lifetime. So, recognising the problem early is important, Jois said.
LOWER THE ODDS
Joshi said the best thing you can do is to lower your chances of getting lupus or other autoimmune diseases by focusing on maintaining a healthy body through regular exercise and dietary habits. Avoid smoking tobacco and consuming alcohol. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated, eat lots of fruits and vegetables instead of packaged drinks and processed foods.
Superfoods To The Rescue! Get Your Dose Of Health-Boosting Antioxidants
Stay Healthy With An Antioxidant-Rich Diet
29 Jul, 2017Some diet foods are full of antioxidants, essential nutrients. Food items like sabja (sweet basil) seeds and coconut water are easily accessible options, say experts. Inputs by Rashida Sidhpurwala, consulting Nutritionist at UrbanClap, website for lifestyle services:
AUTOIMMUNE PROTOCOL DIET
A recent, food-based approach, the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), helps heal the immune system and gut mucosa. This approach is said to help eliminate inflammation.
According to Indana, foods to include in AIP diet are meat and fish (preferably not factory raised), vegetables (but not nightshades such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes), sweet potatoes, fruits (in small quantities), coconut milk, avocado, olives, coconut oil, dairy-free fermented foods, honey or maple syrup (but only to be used occasionally, in small quantities), fresh non-seed herbs such as basil, mint and oregano, green tea, bone broth, and vinegars such as apple cider and balsamic.
Foods to avoid are grains such as oats, rice and wheat, all dairy, eggs, legumes such as beans and peanuts, all sugars including sugar replacements (except for occasional use of honey), butter and ghee, all oils (except for avocado, coconut and olive), food additives and alcohol.
International Yoga Day: Asanas For Women To Stay Youthful, Happy And Healthy
For A Healthy You!
21 Jun, 2018As women venture into new terrains, also performing duties in their traditional mould, striking a balance is important to stay healthy. Yoga can help them in a big way to achieve this. Akshar Nath, Chairman of Akshar Yoga, shares a few dynamic asanas for maintaining a youthful, happy and a healthy body for women across all ages. NOTE: While every woman irrespective of her age can perform all these asanas, women with fluctuating blood pressure or those under medical surveillance are not advised to do these. Also read: Pranayama – use the power of your breath to stay healthy
What is autoimmunity?
Almost all of the diseases in this category are thought to be diseases in which the immune system is not working properly. The immune system is a normal part of the body that is designed to protect us from infections with germs and viruses from the environment. Our immune system also helps us ward off cancer cell development in our bodies.
When the immune system gets out of control and starts attacking our own bodily tissues, it is called autoimmunity. In this situation, blood proteins called autoantibodies are produced that bind to and injure our own bodily tissues. Rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, dermatomyositis, and scleroderma are thought to be autoimmune diseases.
What are the typical skin symptoms of autoimmune diseases?
Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE)
Subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus (SCLE) is a form of lupus skin disease that is made worse by exposure to sunlight or artificial sources of ultraviolet radiation and does not produce scarring. It produces scaly red patches on the skin that can simulate the appearance of psoriasis occurring in sun-exposed areas of the body.
Patients with this form of skin lupus have a somewhat higher risk for developing the more severe internal complications of systemic lupus erythematosus compared to another common form of lupus skin disease named discoid lupus erythematosus.
Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE)
Discoid lupus erythematosus (also referred to as DLE) produces scaly coin-shaped lesions most commonly occurring on the face or scalp, although other parts of the body can be affected. This type of skin lupus often produces scarring of the skin and hair loss that can be permanent. In addition, discoid lupus skin lesions often produce darkening and/or lightening of the skin color. When lupus shows itself initially only as discoid lupus skin lesions, such patients are at very low risk for later developing serious internal problems from systemic lupus.
Neonatal lupus is a condition in which newborn babies develop skin lesions often simulating the appearance of subacute cutaneous lupus erythematosus. However, this occurs only when the mother of the newborn baby also had an immunological abnormality during pregnancy that resulted in her body producing Ro autoantibodies. It is thought that the mother’s Ro autoantibodies cross over into the baby’s blood circulation while still in the womb. These autoantibodies appear to be actually causing the skin lesions that occur after the baby is born and exposed to sunlight and other forms of ultraviolet light.
Complications of neonatal lupus
Normally neonatal lupus erythematosus (NLE) is a mild condition and the skin lesions go away on their own as the child gets older when the autoantibodies from the mother’s blood disappear from the baby’s blood. However, there is another complication that can occur in this setting and that is congenital heart block. Rather than developing skin lesions after delivery, babies develop damage in the conduction system in their hearts while still in the womb. This can be a very severe complication requiring permanent pacemaker placement in the heart of the baby.
The third condition I mentioned that is associated with Ro antibodies is Sjogren’s syndrome. This is a condition that produces dryness in the eyes and mouth, most commonly in adult women. This dryness results from autoimmune damage to the glands that make tears and saliva. This is one of the most common of all rheumatic or arthritis-associated diseases but among the most difficult to diagnose–it is very often not diagnosed until it is quite advanced.
Patients who have Sjogren’s syndrome also experience body tenderness and lethargy that can simulate conditions such as fibromyalgia. In addition, internal organ damage can occur in Sjogren’s, such as kidney problems, nerve injury, and blood vessel injury.
What are the blood tests for autoimmune diseases?
There are some blood tests one can do that can reflect how active the immunological disease is inside our bodies in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma. These tests are routinely ordered by doctors who are treating such patients. This information can be very helpful at times both in the diagnosis of the specific problem and in guiding treatment of the problems over time.
In a disease like rheumatoid arthritis, the most common blood test abnormalities are the presence of rheumatoid factor. Rheumatoid factor is a type of autoantibody present in the blood of almost all patients with rheumatoid arthritis who have the really destructive form of the disease.
This particular test also indicates a risk for some of the complications that can occur in rheumatoid arthritis, in parts of the body outside of the joints. A test like the rheumatoid factor certainly can be helpful in making the initial diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, the amount of rheumatoid factor in the blood can be an indication of the state of activity of the immunological illness inside the body.
Antinuclear antibody assay (ANA)
Another test is the antinuclear antibody assay (the “ANA test” for short). The ANA test is almost always positive in rheumatic diseases such as lupus. In addition, it is often positive in rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis, and scleroderma.
This test, since it can be positive in a number of these diseases, is not diagnostic of any one particular disease. A physician will use the ANA test to screen for this general group of illnesses, and if that is positive, then will do more specific tests to make a specific diagnosis such as lupus.
However, one thing that must be kept in mind in interpreting the results of the ANA test is that it can also be positive in other disease settings that are not related to arthritis. Even normal individuals, on occasion, will have abnormal ANA test results. This occurs even more frequently in older, healthy individuals. Certain medications can trigger a positive ANA test. The point is that the physician must be very careful in interpreting the results of the ANA test and should counsel patients about the true meaning of an ANA test result. I see a lot of confusion produced as a result of physicians in the community not being fully aware of the various pluses and minuses of the ANA test.
Antibody to neutrophil cytoplasmic antigens (ANCA)
I will mention one other laboratory test in this context. That is the ANCA test. ANCA stands for “antibody to neutrophil cytoplasmic antigens.” This test is often positive in forms of blood vessel inflammation such as vasculitis.
One of the strongest disease associations of the ANCA test is a disease called Wegener’s granulomatosis. This is a disease that can attack blood vessels in different parts of the body, including the skin. Recognizing the characteristic patterns of skin changes can be a clue to the diagnosis of this disease and getting patients on proper treatment for the internal complications that can be very severe (lung and kidney injury).
However, like the ANA test, one must be careful in interpreting the ANCA test results. The ANCA test can be positive in other conditions besides vasculitic illnesses, such as Wegener’s granulomatosis.
The treatment really has to be individualized to the specific disease and to the specific conditions related to a given case. Some drugs might be riskier in women compared to men, for example.
How are rheumatic skin conditions treated?
The answer to this question is complex. The skin lesions in a large number of the 100 or so diseases that cause arthritis are treated differently. For example, in a disease like lupus, the skin lesions can be treated quite nicely with cortisone-containing creams and oral medications such as the antimalarials. However, these same forms of treatment usually do not help the skin changes that we see in scleroderma.
The treatment really has to be individualized to the specific disease and to the specific conditions related to a given case. Some drugs might be riskier in women compared to men, for example.
Some drugs like the corticosteroids (“steroids”) suppress the immune response in a broad fashion and can be very useful in a number of autoimmune diseases, including the rheumatic diseases (corticosteroids are commonly referred to as “cortisone” type drugs). Corticosteroids like prednisone taken by mouth can certainly suppress various manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis, including the skin changes like vasculitis.
However, long-term use of corticosteroids by mouth can produce a lot of troublesome and serious side effects. Therefore, physicians are constantly trying to find other drugs that will prevent having to rely on corticosteroids for long periods of time.
Methotrexate instead of corticosteroid
In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, methotrexate is a drug that has been found to be able to prevent patients from having to take so much corticosteroid. Generally, the things a dermatologist does to treat the surface of the skin, such as applying sunscreens and corticosteroid-containing creams or ointments, does not help the more severe skin problems such as vasculitis that are seen in rheumatoid arthritis.
What are treatment options for lupus skin disease?
Regarding treatment of lupus skin disease, the topical measures that were discussed above, such as the application of sunscreens and corticosteroid-containing creams and ointments directly to the skin, can be helpful in suppressing the skin inflammation caused by lupus.
Medications for lupus skin diseases
However, most skin lupus patients do require some type of oral therapy in addition to the topical therapy. The safest form of oral therapy to treat lupus skin disease would be one, or a combination, of the anti-malarial drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine, which is commonly referred to by its trade name: Plaquenil. This drug can be used very safely if the common recommended guidelines concerning total daily dosage are followed. However, patients need to have their eyes monitored while on this drug since on rare occasion problems can develop in the retina of the eye while on this form of treatment.
How are skin problems from dermatomyositis treated?
Similar forms of treatment are used for the skin problems seen in patients with dermatomyositis and lupus. Dermatomyositis causes autoimmune inflammation and damage in the muscles, skin, and occasionally other vital organs, such as the lungs.
However, dermatomyositis skin disease generally is harder to treat than is lupus skin disease. In addition, dermatomyositis skin disease is often more troublesome for the patient by producing symptoms such as itching (lupus skin disease usually does not itch).
How does scleroderma affect the skin?
Scleroderma is a term that just means ‘hard skin.’ Like lupus, patients having scleroderma skin changes have a variable risk for having associated damage to internal organs, especially the kidneys and lungs.
Some patients develop a form of scleroderma that never goes on to cause damage to internal organs. This form of the disease is called localized scleroderma or morphea. However, other patients with scleroderma do develop internal complications relatively soon after the onset of skin problems.
How Do You Treat Autoimmune Skin Conditions?
Your immune system is designed to fight bacteria and disease. But when you have an autoimmune disorder, your immune system mistakenly attacks your healthy cells, making you sick.
These attacks can occur in various areas of the body: Common autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, Type I diabetes, lupus, celiac disease and multiple sclerosis. While all these disorders have an impact on different organs or tissues throughout the body, some autoimmune disorders affect your skin directly. For instance, skin conditions such as scleroderma, psoriasis, dermatomyositis and epidermolysis bullosa are all autoimmune disorders.
Like many medical conditions, treating autoimmune skin conditions sometimes requires trial and error. When our patients are dealing with these conditions, we work closely with them to determine whether the treatment is working or if other options exist. Here’s a rundown of some common treatments for these autoimmune skin conditions.
Scleroderma. Associated with an overactive immune system, scleroderma causes thickening skin, spontaneous scarring, and varying degrees of inflammation. If you’ve been diagnosed with scleroderma, the inflammation and scarring on your skin can often be treated with certain moisturizers or corticosteroid creams. The condition may also cause other problems, such as joint pain or stomach trouble, which can be treated with other medications. In some cases, patients may also need to take prescription drugs to suppress their immune system and ease the symptoms.
Psoriasis. Characterized by patches of abnormal skin that are red, itchy and scaly, psoriasis can affect small areas of the body or cover the entire body. To treat the condition, medical professionals try to not only remove the scales but to also prevent the skin cells from continuing to grow so quickly. They do this with treatments such as topical ointments and prescription medications such as steroids, Vitamin A derivatives and anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, light therapy has been effective for some people with psoriasis. And because stress can sometimes exacerbate the condition, stress management techniques are also important forms of treatment.
Dermatomyositis. This is a rare inflammatory disease that causes a distinctive skin rash, as well as discoloration and swelling of skin. Beneath the skin, dermatomyositis also causes inflammation of the muscles and weakened muscles. In some extreme cases, people with dermatomyositis may need surgery to remove calcium deposits. But usually, the condition can be treated with steroids and immunosuppressive drugs, as well as physical therapy.
Epidermolysis bullosa. Also known as EB, epidermolysis bullosa is a group of rare diseases that cause the skin to blister, often leading to itching and infection. The blisters may appear after encountering minor injuries, heat or friction from rubbing or scratching. Often, these blisters leave large open wounds that can cause complications. Dressing and caring for these wounds appropriately is an important part of treating EB. The condition is also treated by topical medications to help control pain and itching, or in some cases, prescription antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs or even surgery may be necessary.
For more information about how to treat autoimmune skin disorders, or to help determine whether you have an autoimmune skin disorder, please call our office at 205-871-7332.