The information contained in this section has been procured from  John Hopkins Medicine  and the Mayo Clinic.

It is all for educational purposes and not intended to be taken as medical advice.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Gluten intolerance can cause this itchy, blistering skin disease. The rash usually occurs on the elbows, knees, torso, scalp and buttocks. This condition is often associated with changes to the lining of the small intestine identical to those of celiac disease, but the skin condition might not cause digestive symptoms.

Doctors treat dermatitis herpetiformis with a gluten-free diet or medication, or both, to control the rash.   cooking blog

Source: Mayo Clinic

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What causes Dermatitis Herpetiformis?

Despite its name, the herpes virus does not cause DH.

DH is caused by a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and grains. When you have DH and eat food with gluten, the gluten combines with an antibody from the intestines.  As the gluten and antibody circulate in the blood, they clog small blood vessels in the skin. This is what causes the rash.

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

Who is at risk for Dermatitis Herpetiformis?

DH is found most often in people of northern European heritage. The following diseases increase your risk of DH:

 

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

What are the symptoms of Dermatitis Herpetiformis?

The following are the most common symptoms of DH. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Clusters of itchy, small blisters and bumps, mostly on the elbows, lower back, buttocks, knees, and back of the head

  • Severe itching and burning

  • Erosions and scratches are often seen on the skin

The gut may also have the same allergy to gluten. This is known as celiac disease. You can have both DH and celiac. Some cases of celiac become cancerous. Because of this, if you have celiac disease, it is important to see a healthcare provider who specializes in the stomach and intestines (a gastroenterologist).

The symptoms of DH may look like other skin conditions. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

How is Dermatitis Herpetiformis diagnosed?

In addition to a medical history and physical exam, DH is usually confirmed with a skin biopsy and a specialized type of immunofluorescent stain that helps to detect the IgA antibodies. You may also have a blood tests to find certain antibodies.

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

How is Hermatitis Herpetiformis treated?

DH may be well-controlled with treatment. Specific treatment will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, and therapies

  • Expectation for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

The symptoms of DH may go away if you cut all gluten from your diet. Healing may take several weeks to months. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe a medicine called dapsone. This medicine suppresses the skin response and may improve symptoms. However, the medicine has some side effects, including anemia. If dapsone is prescribed for you, your healthcare provider will carefully monitor your blood count.

 

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

Can Dermatitis Herpetiformis be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent this disease. You may be able to prevent complications by avoiding foods that contain gluten. Although difficult, sticking to a gluten-free diet can reduce the amount of medicines needed to manage the disease.

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

What are the complications of Dermatitis Herpetiformis?

People with DH often have celiac disease, which may develop into intestinal cancer. Thyroid disease may also develop.

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

Living with Dermatitis Herpetiformis

It is important to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations about a gluten-free diet and medicines. Iodine and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) can trigger the condition. So, you may be told to avoid iodized salt and certain NSAIDs.

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

Key points about Dermatitis Herpetiformis

  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is an intensely itchy skin disease. It causes clusters of small blisters and small bumps.

  • DH is caused by a sensitivity to gluten.

  • The symptoms of DH may clear when all gluten is cut from the diet.

Source: John Hopkins Medicine

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