Nutrition Myths

Dermatitis herpetiformis

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a chronic disease that is a unique manifestation of the celiac disease.

Its symptoms are itchy, burning skin, with painful blisters and lesions on knees, elbows, buttocks, back and on the head. Interestingly, people who develop dermatitis herpetiformis do not have any other symptoms of celiac disease. The condition is chronic and is found in adults much more than in children.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is caused by the accumulation of immunoglobulin deposits in the skin. The deposits trigger a reaction of the immune system by developing lesions. The reaction is an abnormal response to gluten, which causes immunoglobulin antibodies to form against epidermal transglutaminase, a skin antigen.

The disease can be accurately diagnosed by a skin biopsy. The biopsy should be followed by a blood test which may detect anti-tissue transglutaminase antibodies, confirming celiac disease.

It is not clear why some people with celiac develop dermatitis herpetiformis, but just like the other symptoms, skin lesions disappear once a person starts a strict gluten-free diet. (1, 2)

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