Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Glutened skin DH & eczema

Itchy skin could be caused by gluten - check it out

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH): is one of the many problems caused by gluten-sensitivity.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a very itchy skin condition. It can start suddenly. It tends to affect the elbows, knees, buttocks, scalp, and back. It begins as little bumps that then change into little blisters.

The condition is thought to be caused by tiny clumps or deposits under the skin. These deposits are made up by a combination of IgA-gliadin and gluten (these deposits are known as immune-complexes). These deposits occur as a result of eating gluten. These deposits take a very long time to clear up once you start on a gluten-free diet. It can take up to ten years before you make a full recovery.

To make a definite diagnosis, you need to have a skin biopsy. Which, if positive, will show these clumps of immune complexes of gluten/gluten antibody. A skin biopsy cannot diagnose celiac disease. For that you need the gut biopsy.

Most people with dermatitis herpetiformis do not have troublesome gut symptoms. However, most (about 80%) do have some damage in their intestine when it is looked for. So, all DH sufferers should be tested for celiac disease (that means relevant blood tests and then a small bowel biopsy via endoscopy). About 5% of celiac patients will develop dermatitis herpetiformis. Sometimes it can even develop after starting the gluten-free diet. This is probably due to the long lasting nature of the IgA immune-complex deposits in the skin

Eczema : The skin is often a target organ in gluten-sensitivity: eczema can also be precipitated by gluten. Therefore, people with persistent eczema should get a blood test for their IgG-gliadin levels. This is a common manifestation of gluten-sensitivity.

Bottom line:

If you have on-going itchy skin / eczema - think about gluten. You might be able to trade your itch for a GF diet.

Cheers Dr Rodney Ford

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