Skin Diseases Like Lupus May Trigger Severe Neurological Ills

Ines Martins, PhD avatar

by Ines Martins, PhD |

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According to a new study by physicians at Loyola University Medical Center, diseases such as lupus that cause rashes and other skin conditions can also trigger severe neurological problems — ranging from migraine headaches to double vision and epileptic seizures to strokes. The study, titled “Acquired Neurocutaneous Disorders,” was published in the Handbook of Clinical Neurology.

“A variety of neurologic diseases have cutaneous [skin-related] manifestations,” wrote Jose Biller, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology of Loyola’s Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and the study’s senior author, according to a press release. “These may precede, coincide with or follow the neurologic findings.”

Among the diseases identified as causing both skin and neurological conditions are:

Lupus: This condition mostly affects women (10 times higher probability than men), and is particularly predominant during reproductive years. Between 70% and 80% of all lupus patients report experiencing skin rashes, butterfly-shaped rashes on their face, and rashes due to sunlight exposure. Lupus can damage several organs and cause a series of neurologic and psychiatric problems, like stroke, meningitis, migraine headaches, movement disorder, seizures, anxiety, mood swings, and psychosis.

Sjögren syndrome: Similar to lupus, this condition is also an autoimmune disease in which the body turns against its own tissues. Its most common symptoms include xerosis, which leads to dull, itchy skin covered by a thin, white bran-like scale. Sjögren syndrome can cause neurological problems like hemiparesis (paralysis on one side of the body), aphasia (characterized by the inability to talk or understand speech), and chorea (involuntary movements).

Parry-Romberg syndrome: This progressive condition causes the skin and soft tissues on half of the face, usually the left side, to deteriorate. The affected eye and cheek may sink, facial hair can turn white, and the skin becomes darker with patches lacking pigmentation. Neurologic symptoms of Parry-Romberg include epilepsy, migraines, facial pain, involuntary contractions of the jaw muscles, cognitive impairment, and double vision.

A variety of factors — autoimmune, genetic, and environmental — likely determine both the expression and severity of the neurologic burden in these diseases, the study reports.