I was listening to an audio book by Dr. Don Colbert and he was grouping autoimmune disorders together by the part of the body they affected. I decided I wanted to continue that learning experience with a series of posts.
Autoimmune disorders are broadly grouped into two categories –
- “organ-specific” means one organ is affected,
- “non-organ-specific” disorders, multiple organs or body systems may be affected.
Here are some examples of organ-specific and non-organ-specific:
- Diabetes (Type I)– affects the pancreas. Symptoms include thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and an increased susceptibility to infection. (Organ specific)
- Graves’ disease– affects the thyroid gland. Symptoms include weight loss, elevated heart rate, anxiety and diarrhea. (Organ specific)
- Inflammatory bowel disease– includes ulcerative colitis and possibly, Crohn’s disease. Symptoms include diarrhea and abdominal pain. (Organ specific)
- Psoriasis– affects the skin. Features include the development of thick, reddened skin scales. (Organ specific)
- Rheumatoid arthritis– affects the joints. Symptoms include swollen and deformed joints. The eyes, lungs and heart may also be targeted. (Non-organ-specific)
- Scleroderma– affects the skin and other structures, causing the formation of scar tissue. Features include thickening of the skin, skin ulcers and stiff joints. (Non-organ-specific)
- Systemic lupus erythematosus– affects connective tissue and can strike any organ system of the body. Symptoms include joint inflammation, fever, weight loss and a characteristic facial rash. (Non-organ-specific)
- Multiple sclerosis– affects the nervous system. Depending on which part of the nervous system is affected, symptoms can include numbness, paralysis and vision impairment. (Non-organ-specific)
With so many autoimmune disorders being “non-organ-specific” we will probably see the different disorders showing up in other groupings.
Autoimmune Disorders that Affect…
Autoimmune Hair Disorders
- Lupus. Lupus can cause the hair on your scalp to gradually thin out, although a few people lose clumps of hair. Loss of eyebrow, eyelash, and beard and body hair also is possible. In most cases, your hair will grow back when your lupus is treated. But some people with lupus develop round (discoid) lesions on the scalp.
- Hashimoto’s Disease. Hair loss is a distressing symptom experienced by women with Hashimoto’s. For women, our hair represents our femininity, and losing our hair is a constant reminder that something is off and that we are not well. Iron deficiency is one of the most common reasons for hair loss in pre-menopausal women. People with Hashimoto’s often have poor levels of stomach acid, which is required to extract iron from foods.
- Alopecia Areata describes an autoimmune disease caused by the body’s immune system attacking the hair follicles. When white blood cells attack hair follicles, they interrupt hair growth leading to small round patches of hair loss.
Autoimmune Skin Disorders
- Scleroderma. The skin is just one area that is affected by scleroderma, which is actually a widespread condition that affects all of the body’s connective tissue. Since this autoimmune disorder extends throughout the body, patients can experience not only skin changes, but also symptoms in blood vessels, muscles, and organs. A localized form of scleroderma results in patches of thickened skin, while systemic scleroderma is the form that has the greatest impact on people’s lives.
- Psoriasis. This is a chronic autoimmune disorder that manifests as skin redness and irritation. There are five different types of psoriasis: guttate, plaque, inverse, erythrodermic, and pustular. The most common is plaque psoriasis, in which raised, red skin patches are covered by flaky, silver-white patches of dead skin, known as scales.
- Dermatomyositis.This autoimmune disorder is primarily muscular in nature, but because dermatomyositis also affects the skin, it is sometimes categorized with skin-related autoimmune conditions.
- Epidermolysis Bullosa. There are many forms of epidermolysis bullosa, but only one, epidermolysis bullosa acquisita, is considered autoimmune in nature. All forms of epidermolysis bullosa causes fluid-filled skin blisters to develop in response to injuries that don’t normally warrant that type of reaction. For example, gentle rubbing of the skin or even an increase in room temperature can cause blisters to form.
- Bullous Pemphigoid. This chronic autoimmune disorder involves skin blisters that range in severity. In some cases, the patient may experience only mild redness or irritation of the skin, while other, more severe cases involve multiple blisters that can break open and form ulcers.
- Polyarteritis Nodosa. PAN is a multisystem disease that may present with fever, sweats, weight loss, and severe muscle and joint aches/pains. The disease can affect nearly any site in the body, but it has a predisposition for organs such as the skin, kidney, nerves, and gastrointestinal tract.
- Lichen’s Sclerosis. This autoimmune disorder can affect the skin on any part of the body.
Action Step: Many of these autoimmune disorders in this post are new to me and probably new to many of my followers. Please share your experience with how your hair and skin are affected in the comment section below.