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Autoimmune Disease

What are Autoimmune Diseases?

There are more than 80 known types of autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease can occur when part of your body detects a foreign invader that is not part of your natural self. Everyone has an immune system that defends the body from germs and other foreign invaders. In some people a flaw occurs where the body can’t detect normal cells from the foreign invaders. The body then makes autoantibodies that attack both the normal cells and the diseased cells at the same time. Therefore the immune system fails to do its job and an affected body part develops an autoimmune disease. Just about every body part can be affected from your brain, eyes, mouth, glands, skin, intestines, stomach, liver, lungs, spinal cord, heart, esophagus, kidneys, uterus, ovaries, cervix, joints, bladder, pancreas, thyroid, and vagina. Many of the affected parts have symptoms that affect the skin.

Types of Autoimmune Diseases that affect the skin and hair:

Many of the autoimmune diseases have symptoms that affect the skin and hair. It is sometimes difficult to get a proper diagnosis if you have an autoimmune disease. Dr. Kathleen Smith specializes and is experienced in detection and treatment of autoimmune diseases. She is board certified in dermatological immunology, dermatopathology, and diagnostic and laboratory immunology.

  • Alopecia – Patchy hair loss on the scalp, face, or other areas of your body
  • Antiphospholipid – Lacy, net-like red rash on the wrists and knees
  • Autoimmune hepatitis – Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, itchy skin
  • Celiac disease – Itchy skin rash
  • Diabetes type 1 – Having sores that heal slowly, dry, itchy skin
  • Graves’ disease – sweating, fine brittle hair
  • Hemolytic anemia – Yellowish skin or whites of the eyes
  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura – Tiny purple or red dots on the skin that might look like a rash.
  • Inflammatory myopathies – Slow but progressive muscle weakness beginning in the muscles closest to the trunk of the body. With dermatomyositis, a skin rash comes before or at the same time as the muscle weakness.
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis – Itchy skin, dry eyes and mouth, yellowing of skin and whites of eyes
  • Psoriasis – Thick red patches, covered with scales, usually appearing on the head, elbows, and knees. Itching and pain, which make it hard to sleep and take care of yourself.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – May form lumps under the skin, often the elbows
  • Scleroderma – Fingers and toes that turn white, red, or blue in response to heat and cold. Thickening of the skin, skin that looks shiny on the hands and forearm, tight and mask-like facial skin, sores on the fingers or toes.
  • Systemis lupus erythematosus – Hair loss, mouth sores, “Butterfly” rash across the nose and cheeks, rashes on other parts of the body sensitivity to the sun.
  • Vitiligo – White patches on areas exposed to the sun, or on armpits, genitals, and rectum. Hair turns gray early.


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