Skin Irritation Problems and Celiac Disease
By William T. Beverly, Ph.D. (Updated May 2, 2009)
If people were turtles, then our skin would be like shells — exposed for all to see. Having skin problems, particularly beyond the age of adolescence can be a real bummer. Why?
- It can be painful
- It can make one feel unattractive to others (as well as to self)
- It can negatively challenge ones self image
- It can be expensive
- It can increase social isolation
Attached is a broadly informative article from “Celiac.com” about a skin condition that is reportedly associated with Celiac Disease called, Dermatitis Herpetiformis: http://www.celiac.com/categories/Dermatitis-Herpetiformis:-Skin-Condition-Associated-with-Celiac-Disease/.
According to one of their sources:
“Dermatitis herpetiformis is an itchy, blistering skin disease that also stems from gluten intolerance. The rash usually occurs on the elbows, knees and buttocks. Dermatitis herpetiformis can cause significant intestinal damage identical to that of celiac disease. However, it may not produce noticeable digestive symptoms. This disease is treated with a gluten-free diet, in addition to medication to control the rash.” http://www.revolutionhealth.com/conditions/digestive/celiac-disease/symptoms/symptoms?section=section_01&s_kwcid=ContentNetwork|2451545964.
According to the Celiac Sprue Association:
“As with celiac disease, the best and only known, side-affect free, treatment for dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is a life-long adherence to the gluten-free diet.” http://www.csaceliacs.org/dh_treatment.php.
In case you are wondering, despite the name, this condition has nothing to do with “Herpes” as is noted in this passage from the Vashon Organics website:
“Dermatitis herpetiformis is an autoimmune disease causing clusters of intensely itchy small blisters and hivelike swellings. Despite its name, dermatitis herpetiformis has nothing to do with the herpes virus. In people with dermatitis herpetiformis, glutens (proteins) in wheat, rye, and barley products somehow activate the immune system, which attacks parts of the skin and causes the rash and itching. People with dermatitis herpetiformis may develop celiac disease, which is caused by the gluten sensitivity.”
This source goes on to state:
“People with dermatitis herpetiformis occasionally develop lymphoma in the intestines. Small blisters usually develop gradually, mostly on the elbows, knees, buttocks, lower back, and back of the head. Sometimes blisters break out on the face and neck. Itching and burning are likely to be severe.” http://www.vashonorganics.com/WSWrapper.jsp?mypage=treatment_symptoms_dermatitis_herpetiformis.htm.
According to the Celiac Sprue Association, Dapsone — an Antibiotic, is sometimes prescribed. The CSP website’s related anecdote describes this drug as effective, but the side effects can be significant.
There appear to be alternatives. The “Formotab” website states: “Formotab is a completely guaranteed and clinically proven herbal treatment for Herpetiformis Dermatitis.” http://formotab.com/about_tab.html.
Alternative health ideas for this condition might be found at: http://www.righthealth.com/topic/Dermatitis_Herpetiformis_Treatment/-mod-fadam-o-d-fdid-001480-section-Summary-s. And one might follow the links at: http://www.righthealth.com/topic/Dermatitis%20Herpetiformis%20Treatment?as=yhoo&ac=423&p=l.
Unfortunately, there do not seem to be many options for treating this condition. However, it seems all sources recomend a Gluten-Free diet for both prevention and treatment. There is also information stating:
“Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Trade Names: ADVIL, MOTRIN, NUPRIN) may worsen the rash.” http://www.vashonorganics.com/WSWrapper.jsp?mypage=treatment_symptoms_dermatitis_herpetiformis.htm.
One of the concerns I have had is about the itching and how to treat it topically with a substance this is not in itself, problematic. Regarding the itch problem, Vashon writes:
“In general, itchy skin should be treated very gently. While scratching may temporarily ease the itch, in the long run scratching just makes it worse. In addition, scratching can lead to an endless cycle of more itching and scratching. To control the urge to scratch, a person can apply a cooling or soothing lotion or cold compress to the area. Itching may be relieved by applying a warm compress of diluted vinegar, preferably such herbal vinegars as plantain, violet, lavender, or rose. The itching associated with mosquito bites can be reduced by applying meat tenderizer paste, table salt (to wet skin), or toothpaste. Any alkaline preparation (like a paste of baking soda and water) will help ease the itch. Probably the most common cause of itching is dry skin. Flaxseed oil and vitamin E taken orally can help to rehydrate dry skin and can reduce itching. There are a number of simple things a person can do to relieve itching.
- Don’t wear tight clothes.
- Avoid synthetic fabrics.
- Don’t take long baths.
- Wash the area in lukewarm water with a little baking soda.
- Take a lukewarm shower for generalized itching.
- Apply bath oil or lotion (without added colors or scents) right after bathing.”
There are other sources of information on this. Some might prefer an anti-itch cream and this may be available, but I would caution them to be sure that the cream itself does not contain an allergin.
- http://www.glutenfreeforum.com/index.php?showtopic=32695 .
Finally, stress is suggested as a factor in this and many other skin conditions. Check out this link: http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/d/dermatitis_herpetiformis/causes.htm.
Thus it is proposed that the more one knows how to effectively prevent such problems as Dermatitis Herpetiforis; the more simple their life might be in the long run.
Note: Links updated May 2, 2009.