Symptoms of Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH)

There is a common and characteristically celiac symptom that people should be aware of—dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), also known as the “gluten rash.”

According to the Canadian Celiac Association, DH is “a blistering, intensely itchy skin rash.” It’s usually symmetrical in shape and is most commonly located on the elbows, knees, buttocks, and upper back. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD), people can experience the rash on other parts of the body and severity can vary.

Celiac patients with DH also often experience mild or no gastrointestinal issues, although villous atrophy (damage to the villi of the lining in the small intestine) will most often be present.

The AOCD describes the basic DH cycle, which usually consists of a burning feeling on the affected area, followed by water blisters which tend to get scratched off, followed by scabbing and healing, which takes one to two weeks, then a new outbreak of these bumps or blisters. According to the AOCD, “DH is a lifelong condition, but remission may occur in 10 to 20 percent of patients.”

For a diagnosis, usually a skin biopsy is performed and sometimes some blood testing. And the treatment? The gluten-free diet, of course, although drug options are also available to suppress symptoms.

With an increase in awareness about DH among the public as well as in the medical community, we can look forward to a higher diagnosis rate and better long-term health among celiacs.

Tina Turbin


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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.

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