itchy skin

Fighting an Autoimmune Disease? Your Skin May Be Ground Zero

While some autoimmune disease symptoms are invisible, others attack the most noticeable part of your body — your skin. Fighting these diseases requires arming yourself with information and learning about skin care services Norfolk VA. This is a war in which your body battles itself.

Autoimmune Diseases That Can Affect Your Skin

Normally, your immune system recognizes only foreign invaders such as viruses or bacteria as cells that must be destroyed, and antibodies are released to fight  these invading organisms. When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system mistakenly identifies a normal part of your body, such as your joints or skin, as an invader.

When this happens, antibodies are released to attack otherwise healthy cells, resulting in symptoms you typically experience when your body is fighting an illness, such as fatigue, fever, aching muscles and swelling. These antibodies can also wage war against your skin if you have one of several common autoimmune diseases, including scleroderma, psoriasis, dermatomyositis, epidermolysis and lupus.

Symptoms

Autoimmune diseases have varying symptoms that can affect the skin. In the localized form of scleroderma, for example, thickened patches of skin are a hallmark. Systemic scleroderma can create a broader range of skin-related issues, including redness or blueness of fingers and toes and a tightening of the skin surrounding these digits. Psoriasis primarily presents as irritation, itchiness and redness on any part of the body, whereas dermatomyositis typically manifests as a rash on the upper body and tightening of the skin.

With epidermolysis, skin blisters filled with fluid can occur under circumstances that normally would cause no reaction. For example, simply brushing against something or increasing the temperature in a room can result in an eruption of blisters. With lupus, some individuals experience a butterfly-shaped rash or lesions on areas that are typically exposed to the sun, such as the legs, arms, neck, face and ears.

Treatments

Your dermatologist is a key ally in battling autoimmune disease symptoms that are affecting your skin. While medications and other therapies will likely be prescribed, practicing proper skin care can be a first line of defense that relieves or minimizes symptoms.

It is recommended that you cleanse affected areas with warm — not hot — water. While moisturizing will not heal rashes or blistering brought on by an autoimmune disease, it can reduce dryness, scaling and itchiness.

For some, brief exposure to sunlight can encourage cell replenishment, but a doctor should always be consulted regarding the safest way to expose yourself to natural rays. Sunscreen and protective clothing are generally recommended to all autoimmune patients. A trusted dermatologist will advise you on the best regimen for defending your skin.

Your skin can be a battleground when it comes to fighting an autoimmune disease, so arm yourself with knowledge. Then enlist your dermatologist to join you in combat.

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