Autoimmune Diseases

At the 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 Saint John’s Dermatological Center for Skin Health such as:

 

Pemphigus

A blistering skin disease in which a patient’s own antibodies form to prevent the cells of the epidermis from binding to each other. The blisters that result can break open up and form into open wounds, which can be very painful.

Pemphigoid

Bullous pemphigoid is a rare skin condition that causes large, fluid-filled blisters on areas of skin that often flex — such as the lower abdomen, upper thighs or armpits. Read more...

Vitiligo

 

A disease in which the immune systems attacks melanocytes, which are the cells responsible for generating the pigmentation in our skin. Patients develop white patches in various areas of their skin wherever pigment is present.

Lupus

A very complicated autoimmune disease that can affect many skin organ systems or it can only affect the skin alone. The exact mechanism of how lupus develops in a person is unclear, but being very sensitive to the sun can be a symptom of lupus.

Vitiligo

 

A disease in which the immune systems attacks melanocytes, which are the cells responsible for generating the pigmentation in our skin. Patients develop white patches in various areas of their skin wherever pigment is present.

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(Garden Level)

Santa Monica, CA 90404

Tel: 310-449-5265

Fax: 310-449-5273

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