Dermatitis herpetiformis is an extremely itchy rash made of bumps and blisters. The rash is chronic, which means it continues over a long period of time.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Dermatitis herpetiformis usually begins in people age 20 and older, although children may sometimes be affected. It is seen in both men and women.
The cause is unknown. However, dermatitis herpetiformis is frequently linked to gluten sensitivity (celiac sprue disease) in the small bowel.
Symptoms of dermatitis herpetiformis include:
- Extremely itchy bumps or blisters, most often on the elbows, knees, back, and buttocks
- The rash is usually the same size and shape on both sides
- Some patients may have scratch marks instead of blisters
Symptoms of dermatitis herpetiformis tend to come and go.
Signs and tests
A skin biopsy and direct immunofluorescence test of the skin are performed in most cases. Your doctor may also recommend a biopsy of the intestines.
An antibiotic called dapsone may help most patients.
A strict gluten-free diet will also be recommended to help control the disease. Sticking to this diet may remove the need for medications and prevent later complications.
Certain immunosuppressive medications may be used but are less effective.
The disease may be well controlled with treatment. Without treatment, there may be a significant risk of intestinal cancer.
Thyroid disease may be found in many patients with dermatitis herpetiformis. Patients are also more likely to develop certain cancers of the intestines.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you have a rash that continues despite home treatment.
There is no known prevention of this disease. People with this condition may be able to prevent complications by avoiding foods that contain gluten.
Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby; 2004.
McPherson RA, Pincus MR. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 21st ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2006.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. ©1997-2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Ice Falls Can Cause Serious Injuries
- 2. Can Inactivity Act Like a Disease?
- 3. Kale Snack Recipe for Diabetics
- 4. How Running Affects Arthritis
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.