alt=a woman checking red bumps that form a question mark on her chest

How Autoimmune Diseases Mix & Match

Last updated: August 2022

The other day, I woke up to several light red, dry spots on my thigh and chest. They are about the size of dimes, and they are typically close together. They appear to be guttate psoriasis, which affects about 10 percent of people with psoriasis.

At first, I thought they were mosquito bites since summer is here, and they annoyingly tend to get in through the cracks in my window. Within the next few days, the spots became bigger, drier, and much more itchy — all while I started experiencing extreme neck pain.

When autoimmune condition meets another...

But let's back up a bit. I also live with ankylosing spondylitis, a type of inflammatory arthritis (related to psoriatic arthritis) that primarily affects the spine. It's known as Spondyloarthropathy (SpA), and it's associated with a lot of skin issues, including psoriasis.

Over the next week or so, the psoriasis spots bloomed. Mine is incredibly mild, but it seems very connected to my arthritis. In fact, guttate psoriasis can come on after an infection or even due to drug use, including NSAIDS (which I use to manage my arthritis pain).

The psoriasis connection

Having to sort between different autoimmune diseases can feel so overwhelming, as though I am out of control of my body. I always ask myself: Is this rash autoimmune in nature? Is it stress? Is it a bug bite? Is this psoriatic arthritis on top of AS, or is it AS with a little side helping of psoriasis?

The symptoms are similar, and they do tend to collapse into one another, and frankly, rheumatologists don't always dig deeply enough into an issue. And since my psoriasis is mild, it hasn't come up. It doesn't flare up often, and usually, when it does, it coincides with pain.

Which condition can this symptom be traced back to?

It's strange to live your life with a smattering of symptoms that simply come and go as they please and are both so seemingly unrelated and also so connected. For me, the skin, pain, and stress connection are very real. When I see my spots, I know something is off. It tells me I need to take better care of myself or decrease my stress.

While it sometimes is totally out of my control, listening to my body's visual and invisible clues has become of my strengths.

Do your conditions seem to go hand-in-hand?

Even though these little psoriasis spots can be somewhat intrusive aesthetically and physically, I have to give myself grace. I know that my body is doing the best that it can. It has cycles of pain and times when symptoms are apparent, and that's okay.

Do you experience any other symptoms during flare-ups? I would love to hear about what that looks like for you and how you manage it. Do you have any other autoimmune issues on top of psoriasis? Do they seem to go hand in hand? Tell me in the comments below!

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