July 19, 2022

New SWHR Paper Strives to Address Skin Disease Burden for Women 

By Monica Lefton, SWHR Communications Manager.     

While more than 23.5 million people in the United States suffer from confirmed autoimmune diseases, women represent more than 80% of autoimmune patients. Skin, as the body’s largest organ, can be affected by autoimmune diseases. Immune-mediated skin diseases (broadly involving abnormal activity of the immune system) and autoimmune skin diseases (characterized by antigen presence) remain relatively understudied; therefore, little is known about why many of them are more prevalent—and often more severe—in women. 

Due to skin’s visibility and physiological function, skin diseases and comorbidities can impact a person’s physical and mental well-being and carry a large public health burden. Furthermore, the burden of autoimmune disease generally is arguably greater in women owing to gender and cultural influences as well as women’s frequent role as caregivers.  

To advance understanding and awareness, and inform care and policy around autoimmune skin diseases in women, the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) published a commentary on skin disease burden in the journal, Women’s Health Issues, July-August 2022 issue, titled Addressing Autoimmune and Immune-mediated Skin Disease Burden in Women.”  

This paper examines current gaps and ways to advance disease research; reviews severity in disease burden, psychological burden, caregiver burden, and economic burden; and explores policy challenges and opportunities as it relates to autoimmune and immune-mediated skin disease in women, with special emphasis on the diseases of alopecia areata, atopic dermatitis, and psoriatic arthritis—which all differently impact women. 

Download The Autoimmune Skin Paper

Insights for this paper were collected from a series of closed meetings and public events that SWHR hosted with expert researchers, clinicians, patient advocates, and health care policy leaders in the autoimmune skin space. The paper also builds on SWHR’s autoimmune skin fact sheet series in 2021, which highlighted symptoms, treatment, and care options for individuals living with alopecia areata, atopic dermatitis, and psoriatic arthritis. 

This paper is part of SWHR’s Autoimmune Skin programs and was co-authored with members of the SWHR Autoimmune Skin Working Group. These programs in Alopecia Areata, Atopic Dermatitis, and Psoriatic Arthritis were established in 2021 to engage autoimmune skin experts and stakeholders around the burden of these diseases on women as patients and caregivers, and to promote science-based health care policies and education to further research, diagnosis, and treatment strategies.   

SWHR’s Autoimmune Skin Program is supported by an educational sponsorship from Eli Lilly and Company. SWHR maintains editorial control and independence over educational content.