Autoimmune Skin Disorders: Eight Types and What to Do About Them
Think back to the last time you got sick. You may have ended up with symptoms such as a cold, fever, runny nose, or body aches. Maybe you were sick for a few days or a week or two as your body fought off the illness and slowly recovered.
We have our complex immune systems to thank when we successfully fight off a virus. Under normal circumstances, our white blood cells successfully attack and defeat viral cells.
But sometimes this system can go wrong.
An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own healthy cells rather than the harmful ones. Millions of people around the world suffer from autoimmune disorder symptoms that can affect all parts of the body—from the internal organs to the joints to the skin.
Despite the name, autoimmune skin disorders also affect other areas of the body. Let’s break down eight common disorders and what to do about them.
Eight Autoimmune Skin Disorders
- Scleroderma: An autoimmune condition affecting connective tissue, scleroderma results in thick, hardened skin. Localized scleroderma normally impacts the skin and in some cases the muscles and bones. Systemic scleroderma involves many other body parts, from the heart to the kidneys. Women are most likely to suffer from scleroderma, and the condition is mostly found in people ages 30 and 50.
- Psoriasis: This disorder results in the body growing too many skin cells. These excess cells become layered red patches with dead skin scales on top. They can occur anywhere on the body. Most psoriasis scales are found on the knees, elbows, scalp, and lower back.
- Dermatomyositis: This disease is related to polymyositis—an autoimmune disorder that weakens and stiffens the muscles. Dermatomyositis also affects the muscles and unlike polymyositis, those with dermatomyositis have skin rashes. The skin also gets thicker and tighter, and patients develop purpled eyelids. Children can suffer from a distinct form of dermatomyositis, causing fever, rash, and muscle fatigue. Juvenile dermatomyositis is found in children ages 5 to 10, most likely affecting girls.
- Epidermolysis bullosa: This skin condition occurs in many variations, with epidermolysis bullosa acquisita (EBA) being an autoimmune disorder. People with any type of the disease suffer from fluid blisters. Those with EBA develop these blisters on the hands, feet, and mucous membranes. Most people with EBA are 30 to 40 years old.
- Bullous pemphigoid: One of the rare autoimmune skin disorders causing the immune system to attack skin tissue right below the outer layer, bullous pemphigoid causes large fluid blisters on the torso, mouth, arms, and legs. Most people with bullous pemphigoid are over 60 years old, and the disease can be extremely dangerous among older individuals.
- Lupus: Cutaneous lupus causes the immune system to attack the body’s skin cells. This results in itchy, painful, and reddened skin and often leads to scars. Systemic lupus erythematosus is another kind of lupus also impacting the joints, brain, heart, and more. Most people with systemic lupus also develop Cutaneous lupus.
- Behcet’s Disease: This autoimmune disorder inflames the body’s blood vessels. Patients experience inflammation of the eyes, skin rashes, mouth sores, and genital lesions. This disease affects all ages, but most people develop symptoms between 20 and 30 years old. The severity of Behcet’s disease often ebbs and flows—patients may have flare-ups followed by periods of reprieve.
- Ocular Cicatricial Pemphigoid (OCP): A rare autoimmune condition that blisters and scars the eye skin and conjunctiva—a membrane protecting the eye and eyelids. Rashes often spread to the mouth, nose, intestines, eyes, and genitals.
Conventional Treatment for Autoimmune Skin Disorders
Most people visit their doctors when they develop symptoms of autoimmune skin disorders. These conventional doctors focus solely on managing these symptoms and rarely address the root cause of the autoimmune disorder.
Doctors most often prescribe corticosteroid medications to stop inflammation. These drugs have concerning side effects, so they’re only used for short-term relief.
Immunosuppressants are longer-term drugs that suppress the immune system and stop it from attacking the wrong body parts. Cyclosporine, Orencia (abatacept), and Humira (adalimumab) are three types of immunosuppressants.
Finally, your doctor may prescribe topical cream or lotion for symptom relief. Also, UV light therapy has been used to manage autoimmune skin disorder symptoms.
That’s the normal extent of conventional treatment for autoimmune skin disorders. The problem? These remedies are short-term, only seek to manage symptoms, and cause lasting side effects. There’s a much better way to treat autoimmune skin disorders through functional medicine.
The Functional Medicine Approach to Treating Autoimmune Skin Disorders
Functional medicine goes deeper than treating external symptoms. These doctors seek to find the cause of a disease and heal the body in natural, non-invasive ways.
No matter what autoimmune disease you have, the gut microbiome is one of the first areas that functional medicine doctors address. Most of us have gut imbalances and/or a leaky gun lining, allowing toxins and bacteria into our bloodstreams. The body tries to fight this invasive bacteria by revving up the immune system, which leads to inflammation all over the body.
Nutrition is a huge component of healing gut bacteria. A functional medicine doctor will help you find any food allergies or sensitivities, work to balance blood sugar levels, and address environmental toxins. You’ll most likely come up with a nutrition plan to avoid inflammatory foods and nourish your body with healthy fats, carbs, and protein.
Your body may be deficient in key nutrients such as Vitamin D and glutathione. These substances balance immune responses and protect our DNA. Curcumin, fatty acids, and probiotics also help restore and heal the body.
Functional medicine doctors don’t ignore the non-physical aspects of wellness, either. Your mental health, stress, and rest impact inflammation just like your diet does. A functional medicine provider will help you address your mental health, ultimately helping you find balance and healing inside and out.
Functional Medicine Doctors in Colorado Springs
Here at True Life Medicine, doctors partner with patients to treat conditions and achieve a state of true health. We treat everything from hormone imbalances to autoimmune skin disorders.
Our process begins with a free 15-minute discovery call. We’ll learn more about your health situation and your goals, and we’ll pick a treatment plan that works best for you. Next, you’ll have an in-depth consultation with Dr. James, who will evaluate your health situation—from addressing current lifestyle habits to analyzing your genetics.
Once we’ve taken the time to fully understand you and your situation, we’ll harness our cutting edge laboratory and diagnostic testing to learn more about what’s causing your health problems. Our doctors will work with you to then create a healthcare plan based on your needs.
At True Life Medicine, you’re not just another number. When you work with us, you enter into a partnership toward your True Life.
If your life has been affected by an autoimmune skin disorder—or another condition—we’re here to help. Click here to schedule your free discovery call and begin your wellness journey.