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Autoimmune conditions of the skin: Autoimmune Skin Disease: Skin Lupus, Pemphigus, & Other Autoimmune Skin Disorders | University of Utah Health

Autoimmune Skin Disease: Skin Lupus, Pemphigus, & Other Autoimmune Skin Disorders | University of Utah Health

What Is Autoimmune Disease?

An autoimmune disease is a disorder in which the body is attacking itself. Normally, white blood cells produce antibodies that attack harmful cells as they appear in the body. The opposite happens in autoimmune diseases. Antibodies attack healthy tissues instead of the harmful ones.

This causes many different symptoms that affect the joints, internal organs, and skin.

Clinic Hours

Thursday 7:45 am–5 pm
May be open on different days or hours to better meet your needs.



Midvalley Health Center
243 E 6100 S
Murray, UT 84107

How Does Autoimmune Disease Affect the Skin?

Autoimmune diseases can affect many parts of your body—including your skin. Because it’s so visible, you can often see symptoms of autoimmune disease first on the skin.

Autoimmune Disease Symptoms

These autoimmune skin diseases can show in a variety of ways. Symptoms can include:

  • rashes,
  • blisters,
  • lesions,
  • fatigue, and
  • scaly patches.

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Types of Autoimmune Skin Diseases

  • Behcet’s Disease
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Lichen Planus
  • Linear IgA Disease
  • Lupus of the skin
  • Morphea/Scleroderma
  • Ocular Cicatrical pemphigoid
  • Pemphigoid
  • Pemphigus
  • Vasculitis

Treatment for Autoimmune Skin Diseases

Autoimmune skin diseases cannot be cured, but we can help manage flare ups with treatment. Dermatology services at University of Utah Health offers a specialty autoimmune clinic designed to evaluate and treat patients with autoimmune conditions that affect their skin.

Our patients are treated by multiple board-certified dermatologists who specialize in autoimmune skin diseases. Our dermatologists give each patient extensive evaluation and treatment.

What Autoimmune Diseases Cause Blisters?

Healthy skin will only form a blister after your skin becomes damaged or dead. In skin suffering from an autoimmune blistering disease, your body’s immune system mistakes normal skin tissue for something it needs to fight off, and then attacks this healthy skin tissue. This causes blisters to form.

Several autoimmune skin diseases are responsible for causing skin blistering, including:

  • Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita
  • IgA-mediated bullous dermatoses
  • Ocular cicatrical pemphigoid
  • Pemphigoid
  • Pemphigus

Referrals for New Patients

If you are a new patient, you will need a referral from your current provider. Your referral should include your demographic information, including your name, date of birth, home address, phone number, and insurance company.

Records about your autoimmune history should be faxed to U of U Health at 801-581-4911 before your first appointment with us. These records should include clinic notes, biopsy reports, lab reports, diagnostic studies, radiographic studies, and treatments.

Please make sure your doctor faxes your referral to:

University of Utah
Department of Dermatology
Attn: Autoimmune Clinic

Phone: 801-581-2955, ask for autoimmune scheduling
Fax: 801-581-4911

We will review referral requests within 48 hours to make sure that the best dermatologist evaluates each case. We will contact new patients about an appointment. 

Pemphigus & Pemphigoid Treatment in Salt Lake City, UT | University of Utah Health

What Is Pemphigus?

This is a rare autoimmune skin disorder that occurs when your immune system starts attacking healthy epidermis cells (the top layer of your skin). Pemphigus can manifest itself as blisters and sores on your skin or mucous membranes of the body like your mouth, eyes, nose, throat, and genitals. The blisters rupture with ease, which leave open, oozing sores that may become infected.

Pemphigus Types

The two most common types of pemphigus are:

  • Pemphigus vulgaris — This begins with painful blisters in your mouth that do not itch. The blistering may then spread to other parts of your body or genital mucous membranes.
  • Pemphigus foliaceus — These itchy blisters form on your back, chest and shoulders, but not in your mouth. They are not usually painful either.

Other types of the disease include:

  • Pemphigus vegetans — Thick sores in your groin and armpits are a tell-tale sign of this kind of pemphigus.
  • IgA pemphigus — This is the least harmful type of pemphigus that can cause small, pus-fillled bumps. The blisters bear a striking resemblance to pemphigus foliaceus, but they are actually caused by the IgA antibody.
  • Paraneoplastic pemphigus — This is a rare form of pemphigus that can occur in people with certain types of cancer. Symptoms may include painful mouth and lip sores, cuts and scars on the lining of the eyes and eyelids, blisters, and severe lung problems.

Pemphigus Symptoms

The hallmark signs of pemphigus include the following:

  • blisters that come and go or rupture and cause infection,
  • sores on the skin or in the mucous membranes, like the mouth, throat, nose, eyes, or genitals,
  • crusting and oozing at the blister site, and
  • presence of the Nikolsky sign, a test that rubs the top layer of your skin to determine how easily it slips away from the underlying skin layers.

Pemphigus Causes

Doctors still do not know what causes your immune system to mistake healthy cells for viruses or harmful bacteria. But we do know that It is not contagious. It cannot be passed down from parent to child either. However, your genes may make you more susceptible to developing pemphigus than others.

Find an Autoimmune Skin Disease Specialist

Pemphigus vs.


Pemphigoid is another autoimmune skin disorder that bears a striking resemblance to pemphigus because blisters and rashes can appear on the skin and mucous membranes of the body. One of the most prominent distinctions between the two diseases is that pemphigoid blisters embed themselves deep into the skin, which means they do not break easily. Another difference is that pemphigoid occurs under the top layer of the skin.

Types of Pemphigoid

There are three kinds of pemphigoid which include:

  • Bullous pemphigoid — The most common type of pemphigoid that causes rashes and blisters to appear on the arms, legs, joints or lower abdomen.
  • Cicatrical pemphigoid — This form of pemphigoid causes blisters to form on the mucous membranes.
  • Pemphigoid gestationis — This blistering occurs during or shortly after pregnancy.

Pemphigoid Symptoms

The following signs of pemphigoid are:

  • rashes and fluid-filled blisters,
  • thick-walled blisters,
  • blisters that form on mucous membranes, especially the mouth, eyes, nose, throat, or genitals,
  • arm and leg blisters that commonly form on areas where movement occurs, and
  • absence of the Nikolsky sign, which tests how easily the top layer of skin is removed from the bottom layers.

Diagnostic Procedures

Pemphigus and pemphigoid are both rare and blisters can be a sign of many different health conditions so we may test you for other diseases first. During your initial visit, our autoimmune skin disease specialist will go over your medical history and conduct a physical examination. We will then remove a piece of the blister and inspect it under a microscope. We can determine the type of pemphigus by running on the skin sample. We may also draw your blood to measure the levels of pemphigus antibodies in your system.

If your doctor suspects you have pemphigus vulgaris or bullous pemphigoid, an endoscopy may be performed to check for sores in your throat. This procedure involves sticking a flexible tube (endoscope) down your throat to see deep down inside.

Pemphigus & Pemphigoid Treatment

We may not know what causes these autoimmune disorders, however, there are treatments that can assist in easing your symptoms:

  • Topical medication (eg. corticosteroid creams)
  • with anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant ingredients
  • Medication infusions administered through an IV tube
  • Wound care

It can take months or years of treatment for people to get better while others may need to take medication for the rest of their life to keep their symptoms at bay. Some may even be hospitalized for severe or infected sores.

Disease Prognosis

Once someone starts treatment, they can typically live a long and healthy life. However, pemphigus and pemphigoid can become potentially life-threatening diseases, if left untreated. You can greatly improve and possibly eliminate your symptoms by following your doctor’s treatment plan. It could even increase your likelihood of entering into remission (no evidence of disease).

Who Is At Risk?

People over the age of 60 have a greater risk of developing these diseases. People who are in poor health or do not seek treatment are more likely to die from these diseases. However, anyone can get pemphigus or pemphigoid at any age. You could even get pemphigoid while pregnant.  

Make An Appointment with Our Specialists

A referral is required to meet with an autoimmune skin disease specialist. However, if you have questions about a skin condition without a pre-existing diagnosis, you can schedule an appointment with a general dermatologist at the U of U Health clinic by contacting 801-581-2955.

For new patients with an existing diagnosis, you will need a referral from your current provider. Your referral should include your name, date of birth, home address, phone number, and insurance company.

Before your first appointment, records about your autoimmune history should be faxed to U of U Health at 801-581-4911. These records should include clinic notes, biopsy reports, lab reports, diagnostic studies, radiographic studies, and treatments.

Please make sure your doctor faxes your referral to:

University of Utah
Department of Dermatology
Attn: Autoimmune Clinic

Phone: 801-581-2955, ask for autoimmune scheduling
Fax: 801-581-4911

We will review referral requests within 48 hours to make sure that the best dermatologist evaluates each case. We will contact new patients about an appointment. 

Treatment of systemic autoimmune skin diseases in Lipetsk

All diseases that appear as a result of the increasing aggressive effect of the cells of the immune system on healthy cells of the human body are called autoimmune diseases. Most often, these diseases are systemic, due to the fact that in the course of them not only a separate organ is affected, but also entire systems of the body, and sometimes the whole organism as a whole. Autoimmune skin diseases are an example of one of the many diseases that are caused by the immune response. In particular, cells of the entire skin of a person are attacked by specific immune bodies due to a failure of general immunity.

Depending on the type of skin disease, there are certain differences in the clinical picture of the course of the disease, which manifests itself in different symptoms and the depth of damage to the cells of the epidermal tissue.

Symptoms of autoimmune skin diseases:

Pemphigus: rash in the form of blisters on various parts of the skin; blisters differ in size, often appear on the mucous membranes and folds of the skin.
Lupus erythematosus: spots of intense red color, often infiltrating and turning into plaques; foci of inflammation are quite painful, when it develops into chronic inflammation, the skin turns pale and thinner.

Scleroderma: bluish or yellowish-brown spots of various sizes; the coverage area is constantly growing, at the peak of the development of the acute phase of the inflammatory process, a plaque forms in the middle of the spot, a scar may appear.

The most common disorders caused by a malfunction of the immune system occur in those patients who have a history of hereditary predisposition. This is associated with gene mutations:

Mutations of the first type: lymphocytes cannot distinguish between cells of a certain type, which leads to the risk of developing the pathology of the organ that was affected by this disease in close relatives. These mutations can cause diabetes, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis.

Mutations of the second type: lymphocytes, being a kind of defenders of the body, begin to multiply uncontrollably, actively attack the cells of various organs, which causes systemic pathologies, in which the process of damage not only to organs, but also to glands, arteries, tissues can take place simultaneously.
Causes of autoimmune skin diseases

Deterioration of the general state of the human immune system is a leading factor in the development of psoriasis. Skin cells begin to be perceived by the immune system as foreign, this provokes their rejection. Often this process is a consequence of burns, abrasions and other damage to the skin.

The prefix “auto” indicates that these diseases occur when a person’s immunity “takes up arms” against his own body or certain types of cells. The immune system is our guardian and protector, which sensitively controls the appearance of foreign substances, microorganisms and tissues that are not characteristic of us from birth. The arrival of such “uninvited” guests causes a violent response of the body – immune cells attack the enemy and seek to destroy it. This is what an autoimmune disease is.

Today, the international medical community is arguing about the origin and treatment of autoimmune diseases. But so far there is no consensus and a categorical answer. The onset of the disease is most often associated with severe stress, severe injury or chronic illness.

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