Dermatitis herpetiformis is a blistering, itchy and burning skin rash that can be hard to live with. The itchiness and rash usually develop on the elbows, scalp, knees, buttocks and the back. This is usually an indication of an allergy to gluten which is a serious underlying issue that is also called as celiac disease. Individuals who are diagnosed with this condition should stick with a strict diet free from gluten.
What are the possible causes?
Remember that this rash has no link with the herpes virus. Dermatitis herpetiformis develops among individuals with celiac disease which is an intolerance or allergy to gluten. Take note that gluten is the protein present in rye, wheat and barley. It is also found in oats that were processed in facilities that handle other types of grains.
Celiac disease can cause constipation, severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. Those who have dermatitis herpetiformis do not experience any of the intestinal symptoms. Nevertheless, even if they are not present, a large percentage of individuals with the rash still end up with intestinal damage particularly if they stick with a diet that is rich in gluten.
Risk factors for dermatitis herpetiformis
Celiac disease can affect anyone but quite common among those who have a hereditary link with the disease.
Men are more likely to develop the rash than women. The rash typically starts at 20-30 years old but can also start during childhood. The condition is quite common among those who have European descent and less likely among those with Asian or African descent.
What are the indications?
Dermatitis herpetiformis is considered as one of the itchiest type of rashes that usually manifests in the knees, elbows, lower back, back of the neck, hairline, buttocks, shoulders and the scalp.
The rash is typically the same shape and size on both sides of the body and often comes and goes. Prior to the outbreak of the rash, the skin in a rash-prone area can itch or burn.
The bumps similar to pimples are filled with clear liquid that are easily scratched off. These bumps typically heal within a few days and leave behind a purplish mark that lasts for weeks. On the other hand, new bumps continue to develop as the old ones heal. Remember that this can continue for years or go into a state of remission and then recur.
Dermatitis herpetiformis is managed using an antibiotic, specifically dapsone. This is a potent medication that can cause serious side effects. The dosage should be increased in a slow manner over several months before it becomes fully effective.
An effective treatment that will not cause any side effects is strict compliance to a gluten-free diet. This simply means complete avoidance of beverages, food or medications that contain rye, wheat, oats or barley. Even though this can be hard to follow, it provides the most beneficial effect on the overall health among those who have celiac disease. Any reduction in the intake of gluten can reduce the amount of medication that must be taken.