People with Sjögren’s may be more susceptible to a rash, especially after spending time in the sun. Skin problems that occur with the condition may present as:

  • xerosis, or dry, rough skin
  • small “blood spots” or purpura on the lower legs due to vasculitis, or inflammation of the blood vessels
  • vasculitic skin lesions that may appear as weals, lumps, blisters, or ulcers
  • red, ring-shaped lesions with a pale area in the middle, known as annular erythema

Using a strong moisturizer can help prevent dry skin. If vasculitis occurs, the doctor may prescribe drugs to suppress the immune system.

Vasculitis is caused by inflammation of your blood vessels. Vasculitis in Sjögren’s is usually restricted to the small blood vessels, where immune complexes and antibodies cause inflammation and destruction. This process can impact many organs, because if blood flow does not reach tissues, the tissue can be damaged and organ function affected. If medium size arteries are affected, blood flow to the fingers and toes can be reduced, leading to tissue death, or gangrene.

Capillaries that are destroyed can cause blood to leak just under the skin. This can show up as reddish purple spots, or purpura. Small hemorrhaging can lead to small read spots called petechiae.

The specific treatment depends on the type of vasculitis found, the organ systems involved, and the general health of the patient. Careful investigation with biopsies of the lesions, evaluation of the degree of organ system involvement, search for infectious etiologies such as endocarditis or hepatitis, cryoglobulins, or other associated problems will lead to proper therapy. If no other specific etiology is found, corticosteroids, followed by immunosuppressive agents may be necessary in Sjögren’s patients.

*article courtesy of excerpts taken from “The Sjögren’s Syndrome Survival Guide” and “The Sjögren’s Book”