Gluten-Related Conditions: Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is a chronic skin condition that affects a number of people worldwide. Characterized by intensely itchy, blistering skin rashes, DH is often misdiagnosed due to its similarity with other skin disorders. In this blog post, we will shed a little light on this enigmatic conditionand offer insights for those seeking relief.

Understanding Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a chronic autoimmune disease associated with celiac disease, an intolerance to gluten. Contrary to its name, DH has no connection with the herpes virus. Instead, it gets its name from the similarity of its rash to that of herpes infections. The primary culprit behind DH is the deposition of immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies beneath the skin, triggered by the ingestion of gluten-containing foods in genetically susceptible individuals.

Diagnosis of Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Diagnosing DH requires an evaluation of the patient’s symptoms, and a skin biopsy. Due to its resemblance to other skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, misdiagnosis is common, so seeing the right kind of doctor is important.

To confirm the diagnosis, a dermatologist will perform a skin biopsy adjacent to an active lesion. The biopsy will reveal the characteristic deposition of IgA antibodies in the dermal papillae. Additionally, blood tests may be conducted to check for the presence of celiac disease-associated antibodies, further confirming the diagnosis.

Treatment Approaches

Managing dermatitis herpetiformis typically involves two crucial aspects: gluten-free diet and medication.

Gluten-Free Diet: Since DH is closely linked to celiac disease and triggered by gluten ingestion, adopting a strict gluten-free diet is essential for managing the condition. Foods containing wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives must be avoided. Emphasizing naturally gluten-free options like rice, quinoa, and corn can help patients lead a healthier and more comfortable life.

Medication: While a gluten-free diet forms the cornerstone of DH management, medication may also be prescribed to alleviate symptoms and control the autoimmune response. Dapsone, a sulfone antibiotic, is the most common drug used to treat DH. It helps suppress inflammation and provides relief from itching and blistering. However, it is not suitable for long-term use due to potential side effects, and patients should be closely monitored by their healthcare provider.

Seeking Relief and Managing Symptoms

Apart from adhering to a gluten-free diet and taking prescribed medications, several lifestyle practices can help manage DH and improve the overall quality of life:

  1. Gentle Skincare: Using mild, fragrance-free soaps and moisturizers can soothe the skin and prevent further irritation. Avoiding hot showers and harsh scrubbing is recommended to protect the sensitive skin.
  2. Stress Management: Stress can exacerbate DH symptoms, so practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or engaging in hobbies can be beneficial.
  3. Support Groups: Connecting with others who have dermatitis herpetiformis or celiac disease can provide valuable emotional support and helpful tips for managing the condition.


Dermatitis herpetiformis is a challenging condition to deal with, but a proper diagnosis and the right treatment makes a world of difference. By understanding the association between DH and gluten, adhering to a gluten-free diet, and working closely with healthcare providers, individuals with DH find relief from the distressing symptoms and improve their skin health and overall well-being. If you suspect you have DH, consult a dermatologist promptly to get an accurate diagnosis and embark on the path to recovery.

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