Jefferson University Hospitals

Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is a chronic, extremely itchy rash made of bumps and blisters. The bumps or blisters usually appear on the elbows, knees, back and buttocks. In most cases, the rash is the same size and shape on both sides. Symptoms of dermatitis herpetiformis tend to come and go.

A Jefferson dermatologist can provide an expert diagnosis of your dermatitis herpetiformis and develop a personalized treatment plan that may include self-care and medications. The Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology at Jefferson maintains clinical activities for the treatment of all types of skin disorders in adults as well as children.

What's the Connection Between Dermatitis Herpetiformis and
Celiac Disease?

Dermatitis herpetiformis also occurs in association with celiac disease. Interestingly, many individuals with DH do not have digestive symptoms of celiac disease. What's more, nearly half of those with DH do not test positive when their blood samples are analyzed. Even so, they almost always have the same intestinal damage as people with celiac disease.

DH is confirmed through a skin biopsy – the removal and testing of a small piece of skin near the rash. The presence of the IgA antibody confirms a diagnosis of DH and, by extension, celiac disease. Thus, if you have DH, you almost certainly have celiac disease. Though you would need to begin following a gluten-free diet, we would advise seeing a Jefferson celiac specialist first, as additional baseline testing may be helpful for future management.