Autoimmune Disorders

At the Providence Saint John’s Dermatological Center for Skin Health, we take disorders and diseases of the skin very seriously.  The skin provides a window through which internal illnesses may manifest symptoms.  Therefore, a complete medical history and a broad review of symptoms are performed to be sure we are comprehensive in our approach.

The body’s immune system protects it from disease and infection. With a complex network of cells and organs utilizing pathways and molecules to fight off bacteria, viruses, and fungi, the immune system also plays a role in protecting us against unwanted cells, including cells that have turned cancerous. It’s not a perfect system, though. The immune system can also attack healthy cells in the body by mistake. This is called autoimmune disease. Researchers are unsure of what causes autoimmune diseases. They do know, however, that these diseases tend to run in families, and women have a higher risk for certain kinds of autoimmune diseases. The diagnosis of an autoimmune disease can be difficult because many symptoms come and go over time and may be non-specific.

Symptoms of a skin autoimmune disorder

Symptoms that occur in various autoimmune diseases can also be present in other types of illnesses such as infections and cancer, which is why finding a diagnosis can be frustrating and stressful.

The classic sign of an autoimmune disease is inflammation, which can cause redness, heat, pain and swelling. This may occur in any organ, and symptoms depend on the affected site. Symptoms may be vague and include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Low fever
  • Hair loss
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Skin lesions
  • Extreme sensitivity to the sun

Treatment depends on the specific disease and symptoms a patient is experiencing. Not all treatments are right for everyone, and the decision to treat is based on many factors, taking into account the whole patient. In most cases, a key goal is to reduce inflammation. Sometimes your doctor will prescribe corticosteroids or other drugs that decrease immune function.

Autoimmune blistering diseases

Although there is no cure for autoimmune blistering diseases, they can often be managed with treatment. In fact, untreated autoimmune blistering diseases can cause life-threatening complications. In recent years, new insight into the causes and development of these disorders has led to research into new therapies including certain immune suppressive drugs. Some even target the immune cells which cause the symptoms of these diseases.

We treat autoimmune blistering diseases at Providence Saint John’s, such as:

  • Bullous pemphigoid
  • Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita
  • Pemphigus

Additionally we treat:

  • Lupus
  • Vitiligo

For more detailed information about autoimmune conditions and diseases, please click the health tools link on our site for a library of information and treatment options.

If you have questions or concerns about autoimmune disorders, please call our office for an appointment at 310-449-5265.