Autoimmune Connective Tissue Disorders

Autoimmune connective tissue disorders are a result of abnormalities in the immune system where cells begin to attact internal body proteins, including those that are present in the skin. Autoimmune connective tissue disorders are more common in women than in men.

Connective tissue diseases can affect many parts of the body. In the skin, we most often treat these disorders:


Discoid lupus causes sores with inflammation and scarring. The sores typically appear on the face, ears, and scalp although they can appear on other body areas as well. They present as red, inflamed patches that are scaly and crusty. Systemic lupus can also cause disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system. On the skin, these lesions can give you intense redness with a burning, stinging sensation when exposed to the sun, or scaling red plaques. Mouth sores are another common feature of systemic lupus. .For more information on either discoid or systemic lupus, please visit the Lupus Foundation of America.


Dermatomyositis usually presents as a reddish-colored, raised or scaly rash. It may cause the hands and face to swell, a purplish discoloration of the upper eyelids, red plaques on the knuckles, and a pink discoloration to the upper chest and back. Dermatomyositis can occur suddenly and severely and is usually accompanied by muscle pain or weakness.


Scleroderma causes the skin to become hard and tight. It can be limited to one specific area of the skin, or it can tighten skin diffusely causing significant disability by immobility and reduction in the ability to expand the chest to breathe. While there are good treatments for scleroderma, at this time there is no clear cause or cure. For more information on scleroderma, please visit the Scleroderma Foundation.

As with all of the disorders we discuss on this site, early detection is key to lessen damage that may be caused to a person’s body. Autoimmune connective tissue disorders are typically treated with steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs and immunosuppressive drugs. If the disease is well managed, a person with these disorders can live a productive and fulfilling life.

For more information about autoimmune connective tissue disorders, please visit the American Autoimmune-Related Diseases Association, Inc.