What is Dermatitis Herpetiformis?

Simply put, Dermatitis Herpetiformis, or the celiac disease rash, is an autoimmune skin disease, that often first occurs between the ages of 15 and 40. Younger children are rarely diagnosed.

Small itchy blisters, bumps, and lesions on your head, hands, elbows, knees, lower back and buttocks are the signs that can alert your doctor to this condition, especially if they are in the same place on both sides of the body.

In fact, just saying itchy is an understatement! If you are not careful, you can inflict terrible damage to your skin by scratching viciously at it. In addition to the intense itch, the affected areas may burn and sting, causing much discomfort.

What Causes Dermatitis Herpetiformis?

If your doctor suspects DH (as it is also known) then he will perform a skin biopsy.

He will probably also take a blood test for celiac disease, as the two conditions go hand in hand.

Celiac disease is normally discovered in patients presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms, but you may not have been aware of any problems in this area, before being told that you have DH.

Is there a cure for DH?

There is no known way to completely get rid of this skin problem.

A chronic condition, it tends to come back again and again. Thus, relief from symptoms is the name of the game. A gluten free diet is the easiest and most consistently successful way to treat symptoms, and will help around 80% of DH sufferers.

As the name of the diet suggests, it simply involves not eating gluten. This protein is found in products such as cereal, breads, flour, and bagels. Basically anything that contains wheat, rye, or barley is a no-no.

You can find a full list of the foods containing gluten by clicking the link.

Instead, flour substitutes such as besan, buckwheat, soya, sorghum and rice flour can be used in gluten free recipes.

Thankfully, many manufacturers now offer gluten free products, since the occurrence of gluten intolerance is becoming more and more prevalent, so you will find alternatives fairly easily.

How can DH be treated?

The first step in feeling better is to change your diet. Gluten products make the condition worse, so you need to stop eating them. You will find that within just a few days you should start to feel better.

If you strictly adhere to a gluten free diet and your symptoms do not improve, talk with your doctor. In some severe cases doctors may prescribe Dapsone which acts as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory medication, however, most physicians would prefer that you watch what you eat due to potential side effects.

While Dermatitis Herpetiformis certainly is an inconvenience, it's not likely to kill you. Simply learn how to manage your symptoms and you will find that you are able to carry out a very normal life.

Please note that not all itchy skin rashes will be DH. You may have eczema instead. 

- - Dermatitis Herpetiformis


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