The Connection Between Blood Type and Autoimmune Disease

Image courtesy of Medical News Today.

Medical researchers have long asked the question: Is there a connection between one’s blood type and autoimmune disease?

Clinical studies have had varied results, mostly due to the small sample sizes of each study. Though this area needs more research, this blog post will cover some of the research that has been published so far.

Study: Rheumatic Diseases and ABO Blood Types

A 2017 study in Turkey sought to find a link between particular blood types and the incidence of rheumatic disease. Rheumatic disease includes over 200 conditions that cause pain in your joints, connective tissue, tendons, and cartilage; many of these conditions are autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

The researchers assessed 823 patients, with the following distribution of blood types: 42.5% patients had type A blood, 33.2% had type O blood, 15.4% had type B, and 8.9% had type AB. Each patient in the study had at least one of the following nine rheumatic diseases:

  • Behçet’s disease
  • Familial Mediterranean fever (FMF)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Spondyloarthropathy
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Systemic sclerosis (SSc)
  • Sjogren’s syndrome (SjS)
  • Undifferentiated connective tissue disease
  • Vasculitis

Their study found that there was a significant difference in the distribution of blood types among those with rheumatic diseases. The most common autoimmune diseases among those with type A blood were: rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthropathy, vasculitis, Behçet’s disease, and undifferentiated connective tissue disease.

The most common autoimmune diseases among those with type O blood were: systemic lupus erythematosus, systemic sclerosis, and Sjogren’s syndrome. The researchers also noted that SLE, SSc and SjS are the connective tissue disorders frequently observed with antinuclear antibodies (ANA). The rheumatic disease familial Mediterranean fever was also found to be most common in those with type O blood.

Those with blood type AB were observed to be the least likely to suffer from rheumatic disease. However, it should be noted that type AB blood is also the most rare blood type in general, and represented the smallest amount of patients studied.

In addition, it was found that there was a significant difference in the distribution of Rh factor in rheumatic diseases. Of those with rheumatic diseases, 92.2% patients were Rh positive and only 7.8% patients were Rh negative. However, it should once again be noted that a positive Rhesus Factor (Rh+) is also more common among the general population than a negative Rhesus Factor (Rh-).

Is there a link between autoimmune disease and blood type?

So, if you have blood types A or O, does this mean you are more likely to get an autoimmune disease? The researchers who conducted this study concluded: “…we believe that the higher incidence of different rheumatic diseases in different blood types is associated with different genetic predispositions.”

In other words, since blood type is inherited (i.e. genetic), the results of the study point to a likely connection between certain genes and the increased predisposition for developing an autoimmune or rheumatic disease.

Do you know your blood type?

I, for one, do not know my own blood type. This is somewhat ironic, since I’ve undergone many blood tests as part of my Sjogren’s syndrome diagnosis, as well as for monitoring my liver enzyme levels while taking certain medications to control my autoimmune symptoms.

I actually did ask my primary care doctor what my blood type was the last time he ordered a test, and he advised that finding out your blood type is not a common part of the blood testing routine, and thus, he didn’t know what mine was.

If you have an autoimmune disease (or multiple diseases), and you know your blood type, comment below and let us know, are your condition and blood type consistent with the results of this study?

Laser Hair Removal for Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS)

Can laser hair removal be an effective treatment for patients with Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS)? Photo via Good Housekeeping.

For those of you who are new to the Autoimmune Warrior blog, I have two autoimmune conditions – Sjogren’s Syndrome and Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS). Over the years, my HS has taken a backseat while I’ve dealt with my Sjogren’s symptoms.

In the past year, however, I’ve been more active about working with my dermatologist to manage this chronic autoimmune skin condition. By actively managing my HS symptoms, my hope is that I won’t move past Hurley Stage I of the disease, or even go into remission.

As I noted in my last blog post about my new Hidradenitis Suppurativa treatment plan, I’ve been working with a new dermatologist who has prescribed me a topical cream called resorcinol, in addition to the clindamycin and Hibiclens that I routinely use. Besides topical treatments, however, I’ve also started getting laser hair removal in my groin and underarms, which are the main areas where Hidradenitis Suppurativa affects me.

What does the science say?

For those who are unaware, laser hair removal has been cited as a way to reduce HS symptoms like boils and abscesses in the groin, underarms, and elsewhere in the body’s axillary regions. The logic is that, by using a laser to destroy your hair follicles, the follicle cannot get clogged; this is important, since, as my dermatologist explained, follicular occlusion is one of the main parts of the disease.

In fact, studies have shown that patients with Hidradenitis have seen improvement in their HS symptoms after receiving laser hair removal treatments. A 2011 study found that when 18 patients were treated in a single area affected by Hidradenitis twice a week with intense pulsed light over four weeks, they experienced ‘significant improvement’ in the mean examination score of their lesions. The patients also reported being ‘highly satisfied’ with their treatment.

Laser hair removal in HS patients

There are different types of lasers that can be used for laser hair removal. Some of the more effective ones have been found to be the long-pulsed lasers such as the IPL and Nd:YAG laser. The Nd:YAG laser in particular has found to be more effective on darker skin tones; this is because the laser needs to distinguish between your hair and skin color in order to work. Some clinical trials using the CO2 laser have also shown promise in the treatment of HS, but larger study samples are needed.

In addition to these studies, anecdotal evidence from other HS patients is what motivated me to move forward with getting laser hair removal to treat my hidradenitis. Reading the experiences of other bloggers who are living with the condition and have found positive results after laser hair removal gave me hope that I could experience the same benefits.

Drawbacks of laser hair removal for Hidradenitis Suppurativa

There are, however, some drawbacks to consider when getting laser hair removal to treat your HS. If you are at Hurley Stage III of the disease, for example, laser hair removal may not be the best option for you, since your skin is highly sensitive, and the laser may exacerbate inflammation and cause undue pain to the area(s) affected. Also, the laser may not be able to penetrate scar tissue that has formed as a result of your HS. For patients at an advanced stage of the disease, wide-excision surgery or deroofing may be better options instead, in combination with antibiotics or even immunosuppressants like Humira. In summation, laser hair removal is a more practical option for those with Hurley Stage I or II of the disease.

Also, though laser hair removal technology continues to evolve, if you have a darker skin tone and dark hair, or a lighter skin tone and light-colored hair, you may not be a good candidate for laser hair removal, since the laser may not be able to distinguish between your hair and skin.

Another drawback is the expense. Laser hair removal can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the type of laser used, the number of treatments necessary to see results, and the size of the area. Getting your laser treatment done at a medical clinic by a doctor or nurse, or at a beauty salon by a certified technician, may impact the price you pay. Furthermore, many health insurance plans do not cover the cost of treatment, since, despite the research out there, laser hair removal is still not a universally recognized treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa, and is viewed as a cosmetic procedure.

Finally, laser hair removal can take a long time. At the clinic I am going to, laser hair treatments are usually delivered every 4-8 weeks, depending on the area being treated. I am getting treated every 6 weeks, and while I think it is worth it to see results, patients looking for a more immediate change may be disappointed with such slow progress.

Should I get laser hair removal to treat my HS?

In conclusion, whether or not you should move forward with getting laser hair removal to treat your hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms is really a decision that should be made between you and your dermatologist. While HS is not an easy condition to live with, as biotechnology and pharmaceutical treatments evolve, and as patients and medical professionals become more aware of alternative treatment methods, there is hope for those living with HS.

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Check out these other related blog posts:

Top 5 Must-Have Products for Dry Mouth | Sjogren’s Syndrome Series

Living with dry mouth can cause an array of complications. Image courtesy of Orthodontic Excellence.

As many of my subscribers know, I have an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome. One of the main symptoms of Sjogren’s is dry mouth, also known as xerostomia.

While those with adequate saliva levels may not think that this is a big deal, us dry mouth sufferers know that even a small amount of mouth dryness can wreck havoc on your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, mouth dryness can cause an array of health issues, including mouth sores (ulcers), oral thrush (a yeast infection in your mouth), increased dental decay, tooth loss, gum disease, bad breath, issues with chewing, swallowing and speech, loss of taste, and poor nutrition and digestion.

In fact, one of the reasons I first got diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome was because of my mouth dryness. I had gone to the dentist, and I was told that I had eight cavities (yes, eight!) when I had never had a single cavity in the entire 20 years of my life. Not only that, but I had a thick coating of white gunk of my tongue (yuck!), and my dentist told me that I had oral thrush. I had to take prescription antibacterial mouthwash to get rid of the yeast infection in my mouth. Finally, I was having issues with talking and swallowing food, especially if it was dry food, like crackers or chips. I was drinking loads of water each night, but nothing seemed to alleviate my thirst.

After I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s, I understood that mouth dryness was a large part of living with this chronic autoimmune disease. I was prescribed pilocarpine (the generic for Salagen) to help stimulate saliva production. However, it took an array of dry mouth solutions to help alleviate my mouth dryness. Here are my top 5 products that I would recommend for other dry mouth suffers, below.

1. Alcohol-Free Mouthwash

My first recommendation would be to switch to using an alcohol-free mouthwash. If you suffer from dry mouth, you probably know just how drying alcohol can be. Also, if you have a dry mouth, you are likely extra sensitive to how harsh an alcohol-based mouthwash is.

My go-to mouthwash is Biotene’s Dry Mouth Oral Rinse. It helps to keep bad breath from dry mouth at bay, and helps my mouth feel more moisturized after I’ve brushed my teeth and rinsed with it. It sounds strange, but I’ve found that I sleep better at night when my mouth doesn’t feel so dry. Plus, it keeps me from having to get up in the middle of the night to drink gallons of water!

Biotene Oral Rinse Mouthwash for Dry Mouth, Breath Freshener and Dry Mouth Treatment, Fresh Mint – 33.8 fl oz

2. XyliMelts

XyliMelts are kind of like cough drops, since they’re hard discs that you can suck on to stimulate saliva production, alleviate dry mouth, and freshen your breath. Unlike cough drops, however, they’re sugar-free (they contain xylitol), so they won’t cause dental decay, which is important for dry mouth sufferers.

Since there isn’t any chewing involved (unlike gum), they easily melt in my mouth, providing me with long-lasting dryness relief. Before I started working from home, I found that these were great to take into the office and keep in my desk drawer, so I wasn’t having to chug water all the time!

Xylimelts – Mint 40 Ct

3. Moisturizing Mouth Gel

The next must-have dry mouth product on my list would be a moisturizing mouth gel. A moisturizing mouth gel is basically a saliva replacement, that you can squirt into your dry mouth to make it feel more comfortable.

Though it doesn’t have the exact same texture as real saliva, and lacks the enzymes found in it (which aid digestion), I have found that using a saliva replacement helps me sleep through the night without having to wake up to constantly drink more water. It also makes wearing my night guard/retainer at night more comfortable. Plus, it can help during the daytime if I’m having a particularly bad day, in which my mouth dryness is affecting my speech and making my voice hoarse.

Again, my go-to product comes from the brand Biotene: the Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Balance Gel. I find it is the most saliva-like among the different brands I’ve tried (the first brand I tried had the texture of toothpaste!)

3 Pack Biotene Oral Balance Dry Mouth Moisturizing Gel 1.5 oz soothe oral tissues long

4. Electric Toothbrush

If you suffer from dry mouth, a regular toothbrush just won’t make the cut. In addition to frequently visiting your dentist and dental hygienist for regular check-ups and cleanings, it’s important to take steps in your own oral hygiene routine to prevent dental caries (teeth cavities) from developing.

I’ve used several different tooth brushes over the years, and my top two would be from Oral B and Philips. These high-powered electric toothbrushes give me a deep clean, and prevent plaque from building up on my teeth and my gums from developing gingivitis. So, if you’re using a manual toothbrush still, it’s time to upgrade to some better technology.

Philips Sonicare, HX687721 ProtectiveClean 6100 Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush, White, 1 Count

Oral-B Smart 1500 Electric Power Rechargeable Battery Toothbrush, Blue

5. Chapstick for Dry Lips

If you have severe dry mouth, you’ll know that sometimes your lips can get extremely dry too, even to the point where they crack at the corners and bleed! I also have a skin condition called eczema (oh, joy!) which further contributes to dryness and skin peeling around my mouth/lip area. That’s why I regularly use chapstick to keep my lips feeling moisturized and healthy.

My favorite natural chapstick brand has got to be Burt’s Bees. It’s made out of real beeswax, rather than synthetic chemicals (like the ones found in most lipsticks), which can dry out your lips even more. Plus, they come in lots of great flavors, like coconut and pear, vanilla bean and strawberry, so your lips will never be bored!

Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Origin Moisturizing Lip Balm, Multipack with Beeswax & Fruit Extracts, 4 Tubes

These five dry mouth products have made a big difference in improving my quality of life with Sjogren’s Syndrome. Though everyone has a different regimen that works best for them, I truly hope that this blog post helps you find dry mouth solutions that work for you. And let us know in the comments below: what dry mouth products do you use to help alleviate your dryness symptoms?

Remember, always talk to your doctor before beginning a new medication, regimen, or treatment plan. Please read Autoimmune Warrior’s product recommendations disclaimer on our About Us page regarding our participation in Amazon’s Associates Program.