Dermatitis 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. 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.
Skin contact with gluten-containing foods and products has not been shown to cause outbreaks. While this skin condition is officially called dermatitis herpetiformis, some people describe it as a celiac rash or a gluten rash.
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.
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’).
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.