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.