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Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Dermatitis Hereptiformis Celiac Rash PictureDermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is a severe, chronic skin rash associated with celiac disease.

The symptoms of dermatitis herpetiformis are extremely itchy and blistering skin. Sometimes referred to as gluten rash or celiac rash, DH is a chronic condition that is considered to be the skin form of celiac disease. Not all people with celiac disease develop DH, but most people with DH have celiac disease.

The rash usually occurs on the elbows, knees, and buttocks and it is typically symmetrical, meaning it appears on both sides of the body. When this gluten-related rash goes away, which it often does spontaneously, it may leave brown or pale marks on the skin where pigmentation is lost.

DH is commonly mistaken for other conditions such as:

  • Eczema
  • Acne
  • Herpes

In the past, DH was also known as Duhring disease, Duhring-Brocq disease or Brocq-Duhring disease.

Who Gets Dermatitis Herpetiformis?

  • Dermatitis herpetiformis affects more men than women
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis generally starts in adulthood, particularly in those in their 30s and 40s
  • It’s uncommon in children, but it can occur
  • About 10-15% of individuals with celiac disease experience DH

Only about 20 percent of people with DH have intestinal symptoms of celiac disease, however, biopsies show that 80 percent have some degree of damage to the small intestine, especially if a high gluten diet is maintained.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis and Celiac Disease

DH is a skin manifestation of celiac disease and is part of the abnormal immune response to gluten. For those with celiac disease and DH, eating gluten triggers an autoimmune response which causes DH blisters to form. This rash is connected to celiac disease, not non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’).

Dermatitis Herpetiformis Symptoms and Testing

Dermatitis herpetiformis symptoms include:

  • Extremely itchy skin
  • Blisters
  • Lesions

It can appear anywhere on the body but most frequently appears on the elbows, knees, buttocks, lower back and scalp. Doctors diagnose dermatitis herpetiformis by performing a biopsy on the cells under the top layer of skin.

Learn more about dermatitis herpetiformis symptoms and testing.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis Treatment

Dermatitis herpetiformis treatment consists of a lifelong gluten-free diet, just like celiac disease. It may take about six months to achieve some improvement in the skin condition and up to two years or more to get total control through the gluten-free diet alone. Additionally, Rash symptoms can be controlled with dapsone, an antibacterial medication.

Learn more about dermatitis herpetiformis treatment.

Patient Stories, Research and Other Resources

Read patient stories, and access links to research and other resources.

Suspect Dermatitis Herpetiformis?

Do you or a family member suspect dermatitis herpetiformis? You may have celiac disease. Find out now: take our Celiac Disease Symptoms Checklist and reach out to your doctor.

Think you may have celiac disease?

Symptoms Checklist