Dermatitis Herpetiformis or Celiac Disease?


This blog is of the utmost importance to me, being that it is on an extremely important topic of interest. The question that will be addressed asks “is it Dermatitis Herpetiformis or celiac disease”? Perhaps you have not heard of Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH, Duhring’s disease) before. No need to worry, I will walk you through the background information of this disease so that you may gain a clear understanding of what exactly it is. It has affected my daughter, and about 15-20% of people diagnosed with celiac disease, so read on to learn more about DH!

So, what exactly is DH? It is a severe chronic skin condition brought on from a reaction to gluten ingestion, mostly occurring in those who are celiac or gluten sensitive. It is slightly more common in men than women, and generally occurs during adulthood (it is less common in children.) Symptoms of dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) include itchy red bumps, blisters, and lesions to appear on areas such as the forearms, knees, hairline, and buttocks. The rash is present on both sides of the body. Its appearance is similar to that of herpes and is commonly misdiagnosed as eczema. Men are more likely to have atypical oral or genital lesions.

It may be confusing to hear that an intestinal disease like celiac disease can show up on your skin but let me explain the science as to why. Gluten consumption for someone with celiac disease initiates a response of the mucosal immune system in the intestine to produce immunoglobulin A (IgA, a type of antibody). The deposits of IgA make its way to the skin, bind to a protein, and create the reaction on the epidermal layer (the outermost of three layers that make up skin). 


In order to test for the presence of DH, a skin biopsy is used in the form of a “punch biopsy”. This process is conducted by using local anesthesia and removing about 4mm of the skin to test for the presence of granular IgA deposits. Don’t let this procedure scare you away, as it usually only requires one stitch, and heals well. It has been reported that 20% with DH have symptoms of celiac disease, while biopsies reveal that nearly 80% have damage to the small intestine, which is more likely if gluten is still consumed in higher amounts. It is worth mentioning that DH patients who present a normal intestinal biopsy and celiac serology (blood test) experience symptom relief from a gluten-free diet.

As mentioned earlier, this disease hits close to home. My daughter Miranda has this disease, and she still cannot eat gluten without severe reactions, but has dealt with skin issues on and off her whole life and now. This is mostly due to cross contamination when eating out or at other’s homes, which is why certification of grains and clean surfaces is of significant importance. Although there is no “cure”, it is of great importance that the gluten-free diet is followed as strictly as possible to reduce flare-ups. For more information check out a previous article of mine: dermatitis herpetiformis dh what is it?

With my daughter being diagnosed with this disease, and many others too, I find it very important to spread the knowledge about the topic. Following the gluten free diet and recipes is a sure way to improve your overall health both inside, and out (quite literally)! If this sounds like something you, a friend, or a family member may have, please feel free to reach out to me. I can share more knowledge on the topic, as well as some of my daughter’s experiences with DH.

Some basic References:


From our home to yours, Tina Turbin
If you have any questions or suggestions just email me at info (at)

About Us

I'm a cookbook-collecting, recipe-developing paleo junkie, and I live in the kitchen. I'm hooked on farmers' markets, traveling, eating healthy, and hiking until my legs scream at me. There's nothing better than hanging out with family and good friends. I have fun and sleeping is just plain boring. Read more About Tina Turbin.

2 thoughts on “Dermatitis Herpetiformis or Celiac Disease?

  1. So what you are saying from the above is that DH is a seperate disease than CD but the same gluten free diet ?

    1. Hi Linda,

      They are separate yet connected. Those with DH also have Celiac Disease. You can have Celiac Disease without having DH though. They are both treated with a gluten-free diet. A Dertmatologist can perscribe Rx cream to help with DH flair ups as they can be quite painful.

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