These are some of the most common autoimmune conditions that can cause skin rashes.

  • Lupus
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Hypothyroidism & myxedema
  • Celiac disease
  • Scleroderma
  • Lichen planus
  • Behcet’s Disease

An Autoimmune Disease is when the immune system of your body attacks healthy cells. You may experience hair loss, skin rash or joint pain as a result of a dysfunctional immune response.

Over 20 million Americans are affected by autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or rheumatoid. Talk to your doctor if you experience unexplained itching or skin rashes.

What causes autoimmune conditions to cause a skin rash? Because they cause inflammation in the skin cells, These diseases often cause chronic inflammation in your skin and internal organs.

What does autoimmune rashes look and feel like? It can appear as scaly red spots, purplish bumps or more. Depending on the autoimmune condition that is causing the skin rash, the appearance of autoimmune reactions will vary.

A scaly, reddish patch may be caused by cutaneous lupus. It does not hurt and itches. Scalp psoriasis can lead to plaque buildup, which may result in hair loss. You may experience flat, itchy bumps due to lichen planus.

Learn more about skin rashes and autoimmune conditions. These are 10 conditions that can cause autoimmune skin rashes. Also, see photos of how these autoimmune skin disorders may look on an average patient.


About two-thirds (33%) of Lupus patients will experience a skin condition. Lupus skin disease can manifest as rashes, sores, and lesions.

Where is it: Usually, sun-exposed skin including the neck and arms.

How it looks:A butterfly-shaped shape across the nose, cheeks and forehead. Other body parts: A red, ring-like, with some scaling. This is often mistaken for ringworm, or psoriasis.

Cherry angiomas may also be caused by Lupus, which are bright red, raised bumps on your skin. These are blood vessels that lie just below the skin’s surface, which is why they are bright red.

Is it permanent? Although lupus rashes may last from a few days up to years, they are not permanent. Cherry angiomas won’t go away by themselves and must be treated by a qualified physician.

Which autoimmune condition causes sun rash and is it called Lupus? About 70% of cases of lupus are worsened due to sun exposure, or prolonged time under fluorescent lights. This condition is known as “photosensitivity”. Lupus-related rashes often appear on the areas most exposed to sunlight.

People with Lupus can also experience severe flare-ups from sun exposure. Skin inflammation, fatigue, joint pain and other symptoms may all be present.

Lupus can cause autoimmune rash

Cutaneous Lupus is a type of lupus that affects only the skin. When people use the term “lupus”, they are usually referring to systemic lupus, which is different than cutaneous lupus. There are two types of Lupus: one can have multiple forms and one can only.

These are the 3 types of cutaneous Lupus:

  1. Acute skin lupus can often cause a butterfly rash, also known as malar rash, on your cheeks. This should not cause scarring. This area may appear to have sunburnt, but it will be sensitive.
  2. Subacute skin lupus is also common on sun-exposed parts of your skin. The affected areas shouldn’t itch or scare. The affected areas might become discolored or scaly.
  3. Chronic skin lupus may also be known as discoid Lupus. However, “discoid”, the most prevalent form chronic cutaneous Lupus, is not the most common. Discoid Lupus is sensitive to ultraviolet radiation and fluorescent light. Although discoid lupus can eventually cause discoloration or scarring, most discoid lesions don’t itch nor hurt. Hair can fall out permanently if there are persistent discoid lesions.

Neonatal Lupus is an extremely rare condition that affects infants born to mothers with a form of lupus. The infant might have a low blood count, skin rash, liver problems or slow heartbeat at birth.

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Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune condition that can lead to dry eyes and dry lips, is known as Sjogren’s syndrome. Sjogren’s syndrome is a condition that affects women over 40. It can also impact up to 3,000,000 Americans.

Sjogren’s disease can cause skin reactions.

Where is it: Areas that are exposed to sunlight and the lower legs can be affected.

How it looks:Sjogren’s syndrome-related skin issues may look like:

  • Dry, rough skin (AKA: xerosis).
  • Due to blood vessel inflammation (AKA Vasculitis), blood spots can form on your legs (AKA purpura).
  • A purple-to-red skin rash which does not respond to pressure
  • AKA annular erythema, red, ring-shaped skin lesion with a pale center.

Is it permanent? Sjogren’s is not curable. However, flare-ups can fluctuate and go into remission with treatment.

Sjogren’s syndrome can cause skin rash

You should immediately visit your dermatologist if you have symptoms such as purpura or annular acne.

Sjogren’s syndrome doesn’t seem to affect life expectancy. However, it can impact your quality of living. Sjogren’s syndrome may cause urological tract infections. It can cause dry mouth and lead to gum disease, cavities, and other health problems that may severely impact your quality of living.


Dermatomyositis, a rare autoimmune disorder, affects only a handful of people in the United States. It can also affect children. These are some of the common symptoms:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Dysphagia (also known as difficulty swallowing)
  • Talking about difficult topics is difficult
  • Fatigue
  • Sun-exposed areas may cause red or purple skin reactions
  • Calcium deposits underneath your skin (AKA calcinosis)
  • Inflammation around your fingernails
  • Red knuckles

Where it is: Dermatomyositis-related skin rashes most often occur in these 8 parts of the body:

  1. Eyelids
  2. Nose
  3. Cheeks
  4. Back
  5. Upper chest
  6. Elbows
  7. Knees
  8. Knuckles

How it looks: A purplish-red or deep-red rash.

Is it permanent? Although there is no cure currently for dermatomyositis (the condition that causes the skin to itch), symptoms can be improved with treatment.

People who have skin rash and not muscle weakness may be suffering from amyopathic dermatomyositis (also known as “dermatomyositis sinemyositis”).


Psoriasis, a common autoimmune disorder, is very common. A scaly, itchy skin is the most common sign of psoriasis. Although skin problems can occur anywhere, psoriasis is most common to affect the scalp, elbows, knees and lower back.

Itchy psoriasis can cause itching and pain. You should not scratch the psoriasis skin rash. This can cause bleeding and infection.

plaque psoriasis rash

The appearance and location of the psoriasis vary based on its type:

There are seven types of psoriasis.

  1. Plaque Psoriasis – This is the most common type psoriasis skin reaction. The rash starts as small red bumps that then become larger and more severe. This type of rash can be seen in up to 90% psoriasis sufferers. 15% of those with plaque psoriasis get psoriatic arthritis.
  2. Nail psoriasis can lead to pitting in the fingernails or toenails, and could cause loss of nails.
  3. Scalp Psoriasis forms flakes which look like dandruff or hair loss.
  4. Inverse Psoriasis occurs in the skin folds and skin of people with psoriasis. This form of psoriasis is more common in people who are overweight.
  5. Pustular Psoriasis causes pustules on the feet and hands. These bumps can dry out and become brown or scaly.
  6. Guttate Psoriasis causes red patches to form on your skin following an infection.
  7. Erythrodermic-psoriasis can be a life-threatening form of psoriasis. It can cause severe itching and reddening of the skin. This could be due to severe sunburn, medications, or untreated, chronic psoriasis.

guttate psoriasis rash

What Autoimmune Disease Causes Itchy Rash? There are several autoimmune diseases that can cause itchy skin, including cutaneous lupus and oral lichen planus.


Eczema can be described as an itchy skin condition. Eczema is more common among children than it is in adults. Although eczema usually disappears after puberty it can still persist into adulthood.

These are the two main types of eczema:

  1. Atopic Dermatitis: This type of eczema is the most common. Atopic dermatitis can be either genetic or autoimmune and causes a skin rash when the skin’s natural defenses are compromised. Many people suffer atopic dermatology, asthma, or hay fever.
  2. Contact Dermatitis: An allergic reaction or exposure to a chemical irritation can cause itchy skin. Fluid-filled blisters and scaly patches may also be symptoms of contact dermatitis.

Where is it:Eczema may cause skin problems on all parts of your body, but especially on the face.

  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Arms
  • Legs
  • Elbow
  • Knees
  • Scalp
  • The back of your neck

How it looks: Red, inflamed skin.

Is it permanent? Although it is not possible to cure eczema, treatment can be helpful.

eczema rash

Hypothyroidism & Myxedema

Untreated severe hypothyroidism can lead to myxedema. This could be a sign of “severely advanced” hypothyroidism or skin conditions related to severe hypothyroidism.

Myxedema can cause skin changes that may not be technically considered rashes. Myxedema can cause swelling and thickening.

Where is it: Most commonly, the lower legs, face and tongue. These changes can happen anywhere on your body.

How it looks: Skin appears dry, waxy or doughy.

It is permanent? No. Myxedema can easily be reversed if you receive immediate treatment.

rash caused by hypothyroidism-induced myxedema

These 9 symptoms may also be triggered by severe hypothyroidism.

  1. Goiter
  2. Fatigue
  3. Brittle hair
  4. Cold Sensitivity
  5. Weight gain
  6. Low heart rate
  7. Low blood pressure
  8. Constipation
  9. Depression

Management and immediate treatment are required for severe hypothyroidism and myxedema. Myxedema is when severe hypothyroidism symptoms are not tolerated by the body. Your body begins to shut down. Myxedema can lead to coma, seizures and even death.

If you think you are experiencing a myxedema emergency, call your doctor immediately.

PrimeHealth Denver, Colorado can help you if you suspect you might have hypothyroidism. 90% of hypothyroidism cases are autoimmunity-related. Click here to find out how we treat hypothyroidism different than other doctors.

Celiac Disease

Experts believe that celiac disease affects nearly 1% of Americans. Celiac disease can trigger gastrointestinal distress and autoimmune rash.

Gluten-induced inflammation of the gut can lead to celiac disease.

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Gas
  • Stomach growling
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Skin rash

Celiac disease can lead to “dermatitis mypetiformis,” a blistering, itchy rash on the skin.

Where is it: Usually at the elbows or knees.

How it looks: Red, hive-like blisters or lesions.

It is permanent? No. It can sometimes recur following gluten intake, but it will resolve on its own.

Celiac disease can cause dermatitis herpetiformis, a rash that looks like a rash.

Surprisingly less than 10% people with celiac have both skin problems as well as more common digestive symptoms.


Systemic sclerosis is also known as scleroderma. This condition causes your immune system to mistakenly attack your skin’s healthy tissues.

Scleroderma can also affect the following:

  • Blood vessels
  • Digestive system
  • Heart
  • Joints
  • Kidneys
  • Bladder
  • Lungs
  • Muscles

Scleroderma rash

Scleroderma is a condition that causes skin to change in appearance and texture due to an increase in collagen production. It can become thicker and shiny.

Where is it: Although it can affect the entire body, scleroderma typically starts with the fingers, hands, and feet.

How it looks: Tight or hard skin.

Is it permanent? There is no cure for it, but many people will experience symptoms that fluctuate.

Although morphea may be mistakenly referred to as scleroderma or morphhea, it is actually a severe form of scleroderma. Morphea is a term that refers to areas of thick, reddened skin with oval shapes.

Risk factors for scleroderma include:

  1. Female gender
  2. Native American or African-American heritage
  3. Exposure to silica dust
  4. Certain chemotherapy drugs

Lichen Planus

Oral lichen Planus can cause skin irritation and swelling.

Where is it: Usually, the scalp, nails and genitals.

What it looks and feels like: Lichen Planus is a condition that causes flat, purple-colored bumps on the skin. You may also get lacy-white lesions around the mouth.

Is it permanent? It is a chronic condition called Lichen Planus. There is no cure at the moment. Treatment can help alleviate symptoms.

lichen planus rash on the wrist

Source: study and DermNetNZ

Behcet’s Disease

Behcet’s disease, a rare form of autoimmune disease that causes blood vessel inflammation (vasculitis), is very rare.

Where is it: Usually in the mouth and genitals.

How it looks:Round- or oval-shaped lesions, with red borders.

Is it permanent? Although the sores will usually disappear within a few days of being treated, they can recur frequently.

rash caused by Behçet’s disease


Diabetes can cause skin conditions in 50-97% of patients with type 1 or type 2. Skin conditions and rashes can be a sign of diabetes, or a warning sign that a treatment plan is needed.

Diabetes can increase the risk of many conditions that we have already covered. These conditions could include:

  • Acanthosis –bands dark, velvety skin
  • Listers
  • Diabetic dermopathy – Reddish brown spots usually on the shins
  • Digital Sclerosis: As described above, localized in fingers and hands
  • Folliculitis tiny pus-filled bumps around hair follicles
  • Lichen Planus: as described above
  • Necrobiosis Lipoidica: red shiny patches raised with yellow centers located on the lower leg
  • Skin tags small brownish bumps on skin, usually on the neck, armpits or groin.

Dry skin, fungal infections and bacterial infections are all common skin conditions.

Where is it:There are many skin conditions that can be associated with diabetes. Depending on the condition, any part of the body could be affected.

How it looks: Each individual’s condition will affect the appearance.

Is it permanent? There is no cure for diabetes. However, there are many ways to manage the symptoms.

Liver Disease

Skin conditions may be signs of liver disease, such as cirrhosis and hepatitis C.

Where is it: Anywhere in the body

What it looks and feels like: Liver disease rashes could include:

  • Redness
  • Brown patches
  • Extremely dry skin
  • Itching severe
  • Spider veins

Are the symptoms permanent? There aren’t any cures for cirrhosis or hepatitis C. However, there are many options to manage them.

Autoimmune Blistering Disorders

We have been hearing a lot lately about skin rashes. Skin blistering can also be caused by autoimmune conditions.

These autoimmune diseases are also known as “autoimmune bullous diseases” and can cause blistering.

  • Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita
  • IgA-mediated bullous dermatoses
  • Ocular cicatricial pemphigoid
  • Bullous pemphigoid
  • Pemphigus

Scalp Itch

Itchy scalp may also be caused by autoimmune diseases. Scalp itch can be caused by skin lesions or sores on the scalp. These conditions include:

  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Lichen planus
  • Lupus
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s syndrome

Autoimmune Hives

Itchy, red bumps and welts that are often associated with allergic reactions can be called autoimmune hives. They can also be caused by an overactive immune system. Hives can also be caused by autoimmune conditions such as:

  • Lupus
  • Sjogren’s
  • Celiac disease
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Vitiligo

Test for Autoimmune Disease

There are many tests that can be used to diagnose autoimmune diseases. Multiple blood tests are available to help you determine if you have an auto immune disease.

These are the most common markers to help you identify autoimmune diseases.

  1. Antinuclear Antibody
  2. Autoantibodies
  3. C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
  4. Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)

These markers can be detected in labs such as:

  • Bloodwork
  • Urinalysis
  • Skin Biopsy

There are many treatment options

What are the best ways to treat autoimmune skin rash? It is important to determine and treat the root cause. Autoimmunity can be caused by many different factors.

Corticosteroid creams are often effective in providing immediate relief for flare-ups. Diet modifications might provide long-term relief.

Conventional rheumatologists often state that autoimmune disorders can be caused by multiple factors. They then focus on the treatment of the symptoms using steroids, vaccines and anti-inflammatory drugs. These drugs can often cause side effects that may trigger flare-ups.

Conventional doctors tend to treat symptoms rather than the root cause.

Functional medicine doctors can diagnose and treat autoimmune diseases more effectively than conventional physicians. Functional doctors work with patients to determine the best nutrition and therapies to optimize their health. AUTOIMMUNE RASH



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