Autoimmune Skin Diseases

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Duke dermatologists diagnose autoimmune skin diseases like pemphigus, pemphigoid, scleroderma, morphea, dermatomyositis, dermatitis herpetiformis, vasculitis, lupus, and Sjögren’s syndrome -- all of which occur when the body’s immune system attacks healthy skin or tissue. The cause of these diseases is unknown but may relate to problems with the immune response. Our experienced doctors are dedicated to researching the causes of these rare skin diseases, testing new therapies, and providing relief from the itchy, blistering, or painful rashes that may affect the skin, mouth, and eyes.

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About Autoimmune Skin Diseases

Many autoimmune skin diseases are related to disorders that affect other areas of the body. For example:

  • Dermatitis herpetiformis is linked to celiac disease and may cause causes itchy blisters.
  • Scleroderma and morphea cause the skin to become thick and rigid, and scleroderma can impact the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems.
  • Vasculitis s inflammation of the blood vessels and can affect skin, kidneys, and other organs.
  • Lupus can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, and other body systems.
  • Dermatomyositis can cause muscle inflammation, skin rashes, and lung changes.
  • Sjögren's syndrome causes dry mouth, dry eyes, and sometimes dry skin or rashes.

Often, skin conditions affect the mucous membranes -- the moist tissue in the mouth, nose, eyes, and genitals. Sometimes, sores in these areas are the only signs of disease. Our team of experts is experienced treating these conditions

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Treatments for Autoimmune Skin Diseases

While there are no cures for autoimmune skin diseases, many treatments are effective at relieving symptoms and slowing the progression of your condition. 


Topical (applied directly to the skin) and systemic (taken by mouth) corticosteroids suppress the immune system and slow progression of the disease. They may be used for treating milder cases.

Immunosuppressive and Immunomodulatory Medications

These prescription medications change the body’s immune response and control the inflammatory effects of the disease. They require regular physician monitoring.


This biologic medication targets specific areas in the immune system to reduce inflammation. It requires regular physician monitoring.

Intravenous Immunoglobulin

This purified blood product contains healthy antibodies and prevents or reduces the severity of infections in patients with weakened immune systems. It also neutralizes damaging antibodies that target the patient’s own body. Repeat infusions may be required.

Tests for Autoimmune Skin Diseases

Physical Exam

Your comprehensive evaluation includes a review of your medical history, a complete skin exam, and a close examination of your rashes, blisters, and other symptoms.

Lab Tests

Your doctor may order blood work to check for autoimmune factors such as antibodies or blood proteins that may be signs of inflammation.

Skin Biopsy

Your doctor removes a small sample of skin from an affected area, if necessary, to examine it and make an accurate diagnosis.

Consistently Ranked Among the Nation’s Best Hospitals

Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

Why Choose Duke

Though these autoimmune blistering skin diseases are rare, our team of experts sees many people with these conditions. We have the skills to make an accurate diagnosis and the knowledge and experience to develop the right treatment plan for you.

A Team of Experts 
Our immunodermatology group provides comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for patients with immune-mediated skin diseases. We work closely with Duke rheumatologists and many other specialists to provide you with the best possible care.

Research Leading to New Developments
Our dermatologists are involved in studies aimed at understanding the basic causes of these diseases; finding new, more sensitive diagnostic tests; and developing effective treatments. We use these advances to identify the cause of your discomfort and find the right treatment to relieve your symptoms and return you to the activities you enjoy. That also means that you may qualify for a clinical trial, allowing access to cutting edge treatments.

This page was medically reviewed on 07/20/2023 by