Autoimmune disorders occur when our body attacks itself. Depending on the condition, an autoimmune disease can affect a variety of organs, joints and muscles as well as any other bodily tissue.
In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells. Also, one of the most commonly affected tissues is our skin.
On this post we’ll focus on the four most common autoimmune skin diseases.
Scleroderma is an autoimmune skin disease that also affects the entire body’s connective tissue. With this disease you are likely to experience:
- Changes in the skin
- Blood Vessel Problems
- Muscle and Organ Failures and/or Weakness
If the scleroderma is localized then you’ll see patches of thickened skin in that area. However, Systemic Scleroderma is the form that usually has the greatest impact on peoples lives.
For Systemic Scleroderma there are two forms, Progressive Systemic Sclerosis (PSS) and CREST syndrome. Patients with systemic scleroderma are more likely to experience systems that affect the, Esophagus, Intestines, Lungs, Heart and Kidneys.
CREST Syndrome is most likely to appear on the skin in some form or another. It is helpfully named after its symptoms:
- Calcinosis (calcium build up under the skin)
- Raynaud Phenomenon (redness or blueness of fingers and toes)
- Esophageal Dysfunction
- Sclerodactyly (thickening of the skin surrounding fingers and toes)
- Telangiectasia (Red skin blotches caused by dilated blood vessels)
People with this condition will see some of these skin problems, they may also experience joint pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, weight loss along with many other symptoms.
The majority of cases occur in women in their thirties and forties but this disease can affect anyone. The main risk factor is exposure to silica dust and polyvinyl chloride (usually through an occupation related to these chemicals).
The Scleroderma Foundation estimates around 300,000 people in the US live with Scleroderma and 33% have the systemic version of the disease.