July 5, 2010
I know I have talked to at least one other “Sister” who informed me that people with Type 1 diabetes are more prone to skin disorders like vitiligo (think: Michael Jackson’s skin disease). She knew this from her own personal experience with Type 1 diabetes, vitiligo, and Celiac disease.
Admittedly, I have been pretty blessed with relatively normal skin and therefore, I have not given much thought to the autoimmune side of skin disorders. (Correction: I have LOTS of moles, so I visit the dermatologist at least twice per year to have them examined. I have had at least three moles cut off in my lifetime due to suspicion of cancer. However, I have had very few other skin issues, including very little acne when I was younger.) So, when this rash showed up on the lower half of my left arm about a week and half ago, I didn’t think much about it at the time. I recall going to bed and scratching my arm very intensely one night about a week and a half ago. The next morning, my daughter said, Mommy, what’s wrong with your arm? It looks like it’s been bleeding.” Indeed, I had scratched it more intensely than I thought. It disturbed me a bit. I tried to think of what may have caused it. I thought it could possibly be the new lotion I bought from Bath & Body Works, but I wasn’t quite ready to stop using it just yet. Over the past week and a half it has flared up occasionally, causing me to scratch it at times with intensity. Each time I scratch it, more small bumps appear to raise up and become red. The bumps stay around (never really go away) even if I don’t scratch them for a few hours. Anyway, I bring all of this up because I was unaware that there were so many autoimmune skin disorders until I began researching skin rashes on the internet. Scleroderma, psoriasis, dermatomyositis, epidermolysis bullosa, and bullous pemphigoid are all autoimmune skin disorders. You can read more about these different types of skin disorders here.
I was also surprised by the dramatic gender disparity that exists in autoimmune disorders in general. In fact, one estimate states that and estimated 75 percent of those living with autoimmune disorders are women! There are a few different theories behind this gender difference:
· Gender differences in immunity. Some researchers believe that women are at increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases because their immune systems tend to be more sophisticated then men's. Women naturally have stronger inflammatory responses than men when their immune systems are triggered, and inflammation plays a key role in many autoimmune diseases. While this often results in superior immunity among women, it may also increase a woman’s risk of developing an autoimmune disorder if something goes wrong.
· Sex hormones. Another theory that may explain why women are at higher risk of having autoimmune disorders has to do with hormonal differences. Many autoimmune diseases tend to improve and flare along with female hormonal fluctuations.
· Genetic susceptibility. Some scientists have proposed that women, who have two X chromosomes in contrast to men’s X and Y chromosome, are genetically predisposed to developing certain autoimmune diseases. There is some evidence that defects in the X chromosome may be related to susceptibility to certain autoimmune diseases. The genetics of autoimmune diseases are complex and studies are ongoing.
· History of pregnancy. There is some evidence that fetal cells can remain in circulation in a woman's body for years after a pregnancy, and these fetal cells may be involved in the development or worsening of certain autoimmune diseases. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Multiple Sclerosis rank among the highest in terms of autoimmune diseases that affect significantly more women than men.Back to the rash on my arm….I think it may be simple contact dermatitis. I’ll give it a few more days before scheduling a doctor visit. On a positive note, my internet exploration informed me a lot more about autoimmune skin disorders and the degree to which women are affected by autoimmune disorders when compared to their male peers.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Grave’s disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Multiple Sclerosis rank among the highest in terms of autoimmune diseases that affect significantly more women than men.
Back to the rash on my arm….I think it may be simple contact dermatitis. I’ll give it a few more days before scheduling a doctor visit. On a positive note, my internet exploration informed me a lot more about autoimmune skin disorders and the degree to which women are affected by autoimmune disorders when compared to their male peers.