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Woman riding a bike, happy after recovering from dry skin related to autoimmune disorder

Is Dry Skin a Sign of an Autoimmune Disorder?

Autoimmune disorders affect your body from the inside out. What’s more, among the 80+ of these disorders that have been identified, there are many that cause dry, scaly skin. Unfortunately, conditions in this category often go undiagnosed until their symptoms become unmanageable. Talking to a functional medicine professional to find the source of your skin problems is an excellent way to get the help you need.

Would you like help to find the cause of unexplained dry skin or other symptoms of autoimmune disorders? Take the first step today by watching our webinar.

Most Common Autoimmune Disorder Symptoms

Although every autoimmune condition has a different set of symptoms and blood markers, there are a few symptoms that are common to many of these disorders. 

The symptoms below can show up if you have any of a variety of autoimmune disorders.

  • Skin problems
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Joint swelling and pain
  • Digestion issues or pain in the abdomen
  • Frequent fever
  • Swollen glands

Other symptoms often experienced with such disorders include:

  • Sluggishness
  • Insomnia
  • Unable to lose weight
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Depression
  • Brain fog
  • Anxiety
  • Heart palpitations

Yet, even though these symptoms can be signs of serious health issues, many traditional medicine doctors will treat them as if they are unimportant or insignificant. That is why it is a good idea to discuss these symptoms with a doctor who specializes in functional medicine. At our Tennessee clinic, we look deeper, beyond the individual symptoms, to find the root cause of your health problems, whether it is an autoimmune disorder or something else.

Specific Autoimmune Conditions that Cause Skin Problems infographic

Specific Autoimmune Conditions that Cause Skin Problems

The first part of diagnosing an autoimmune disorder is to discover if you have any such conditions. After that, your doctor will narrow down the possibilities until they know the specific type of disorder you have. 

Some of these conditions that are most closely associated with skin problems include the following.


Researchers have recently begun to conclude that eczema is an autoimmune disorder. After all, it does create an exaggerated response to inflammation that occurs in this type of disease. You may see patches of eczema anywhere on your body, especially on your elbows, hands, and the backs of your knees. These patches may look red and dry and feel sore, burning, or itchy. The patches might crack or ooze if you scratch them.

Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

The body’s inflammation response in psoriasis causes it to produce too many skin cells. These skin cells grow and die much more rapidly than healthy skin cells – so fast that your body can’t shed them before a new layer is produced. The result is that you develop red, dry, itchy, scaly patches of skin. 

Yet, for many people, the skin symptoms are only the beginning. Often, people who start out with psoriasis eventually develop psoriatic arthritis, a debilitating joint disease that can cause chronic pain and have life-altering effects.


Scleroderma typically starts out with symptoms affecting only the skin. You may find thick patches of skin that are hard and dry. If you have scleroderma, these hard patches of skin can be a sign of a systemic disease that affects or will eventually affect your entire body. It causes your immune system to attack your muscles, blood vessels, and major organs.

Thyroid Diseases

Several types of thyroid conditions are classified as autoimmune diseases. Some of these come with skin problems. For example, Hashimoto’s Disease, which causes hyperthyroidism, can cause xeroderma – a thickening of the skin. This disease can also affect your heart, muscles, bones, joints, mental health, GI tract, and other troublesome symptoms. 

Graves disease doesn’t always cause skin problems, but some people who have this condition do develop dry, red, swollen skin, especially on their shins and head. The skin becomes so unhealthy that it takes on the texture of an orange peel.

Type 1 Diabetes

Many people don’t realize that Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Because this condition affects the small blood vessels, those who have it often develop skin problems. The skin typically looks brown and scaly. 


Lupus is another of this type of disorder that causes problems with the skin and can affect the joints, blood, kidneys, brain, heart, and lungs as well. Sometimes the clue that gives away the presence of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash on the cheeks and nose. However, you may also find flaky, red, or scaly purple rashes anywhere on your body. Unless properly treated, lupus can be life-threatening.

The Functional Medicine Approach to Dry Skin

The functional medicine approach to dry skin is much different from the traditional medicine approach. If you went to a doctor practicing traditional medicine, they would likely give you a special cream, lotion, or ointment for your skin and send you on your way. 

However, a doctor trained in functional medicine would not only look at the affected skin but would then go on to ask, “What is the underlying cause of this skin problem?” Rather than brushing you aside as if your problem doesn’t really matter, they keep searching, asking questions, and evaluating your condition to discover what is behind the symptoms.

After a functional medicine professional determines you have an autoimmune disorder, they devise customized treatments that treat you as a whole person. Thus, they help you with the skin symptoms, other autoimmune disorder symptoms, and your overall health.

Seeking Answers to Dry Skin Problems

If you are having skin problems such as dry, scaly skin, getting help soon may be more important than you think. Skin problems may be just the tip of the iceberg if you have an autoimmune condition. The good news is that you can find help in Tennessee and parts of Virginia and North Carolina from our Tri-Cities Functional Medicine clinic. Here, Dr. Radawi will search for the reason for your skin problems and determine if they are related to any systemic condition. Then, he will provide whole-person treatment to help you feel better, function better, and become healthier from your skin to every part of your body.

Want to learn more about how functional medicine could help you with autoimmune disorders? Take the first step:

  • Watch our free webinar to learn about our approach to autoimmune disorders and other health concerns you are facing.
  • Schedule a Free Discovery Call to discuss your health concerns and goals to see if our practice is a good fit for you.
  • After your discovery call – if we are a good fit, you’ll schedule a consultation with our doctor to dive deeper and formulate an individualized treatment plan for you.

Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA.