Autoimmune skin diseases

Duke dermatologists diagnose autoimmune skin diseases like pemphigus, pemphigoid, scleroderma, vasculitis, and lupus -- all of which occur when the body’s immune system attacks healthy skin. Our experienced physicians are dedicated to researching the causes of rare autoimmune skin diseases, testing new therapies, and providing relief from the itchy, blistering, or painful rashes that may affect the skin, mouth, and eyes.

Team care for 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 blisters. Scleroderma causes the skin to become thick and rigid, while vasculitis causes inflammation of the blood vessels. Lupus can affect the skin, joints, and kidneys. Dermatomyositis can cause muscle inflammation and skin rashes. To provide you with the best possible care, our dermatologists work with many Duke specialists including ophthalmologists, ear, nose and throat specialists, gastroenterologists and rheumatologists to accurately diagnose and treat your autoimmune skin disease.

We also treat rare autoimmune blistering skin diseases, which occur when the immune system attacks your healthy tissue. When this happens, skin cells cannot perform their normal functions and may turn into sores, blisters or rashes. Diseases include bullous pemphigoid, which causes blistering on the body and sometimes in the mouth or eyes, and pemphigus, which causes blistering on the skin and in the mucous membranes in the mouth, nose or genitals. 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.

Choose Duke for your autoimmune skin disorders treatment because we offer:

  • Experience. Though these autoimmune blistering skin diseases are rare, our team of experts see 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 approach to care. Autoimmune blistering skin diseases often involve many parts of the body. When appropriate, our dermatologists work closely with other specialists to manage your care effectively and to relieve your symptoms.
  • Opportunities to test new treatments. Our doctors are nationally known for their dedication to finding out the causes of, as well as the best treatments for, autoimmune and blistering diseases. You may be eligible to participate in clinical trials to test new therapies for your condition before they are widely available. Our team of dermatologists is studying the causes of autoimmune skin diseases in an effort to develop better diagnostic tests and more effective treatments. 
  • Expert care for bullous pemphigoid and pemphigus. We provide expertise and experience treating rare skin conditions including bullous pemphigoid, which causes blistering on the body and sometimes in the mouth or eyes, and pemphigus, which can cause blistering on the skin and in the cucous membranes in the mouth or genitals.


While there are no cures for the different types of autoimmune and blistering skin diseases, many treatments are effective at relieving symptoms and slowing the progression of your condition. Treatment options include:


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