Dermatitis herpetiformis primary prevention

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Vishnu Vardhan Serla M.B.B.S. [2]


Dermatitis Herpetiformis (also called Duhring's disease), is a chronic itchy rash which is frequently associated with Celiac Disease. The rash is made of papules and vesicles which are present on different parts of the body mostly commonly on neck, trunk, buttocks and knees. It is an autoimmune mediated skin condition, which is IgA mediated reaction and is associated with gluten sensitivity of small bowel. There is presence of antibodies which leads to positive serology test results.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is associated with high prevalence of other autoimmune diseases.

Primary Prevention

Social Impact

The lifelong diet can be difficult and socially troublesome, especially in young patients, but it is crucial in order to avoid serious health consequences. Teenagers in particular occasionally rebel against the dietary strictures and suffer relapses or complications as a result. The widespread use of wheat byproducts in prepared food, soups and sauces can make dining out problematic. This is especially true in the United States, where dermatitis herpetiformis disease is less widely-known among the wider population than it is in Europe. However, certain types of restaurants (e.g., Japanese, Thai, Indian, and Latin American) already offer a wide range of gluten-free menu options, and many major restaurant chains have responded to growing awareness of celiac disease (and by default dermatitis herpetiformis) by posting information about the gluten content of their menu items on their websites.

It is important for friends and family to understand that dermatitis herpetiformis is present for life.

As celiac disease has become better understood, the availability of gluten-free replacements for everyday treats such as muffins, bagels, pasta and the like has continually improved, as has their quality. This has also benefited those with dermatitis herpetiformis. People with dermatitis herpetiformis and/or celiac cannot eat only gluten-free foods but continue to consume one or two products that contain gluten. For example, drinking beer can still cause symptoms, but even this problem may now be overcome. There are many specialty brews around the world that may be described as gluten free beer.

However, the case of beer raises the main problem of dermatitis herpetiformis and celiac disease: while the diet is strict and the effects of the disease are serious, the main symptom of the disease can be social isolation with those with dermatitis herpetiformis afraid to become involved in normal social life. Parties can be difficult, weddings and funerals hard, holidays awkward, a meal out a nightmare, travel is made more stressful, and even the trip to a bar or pub one that requires the individual to be constantly aware of the disease. It is too easy for the celiacs and those with dermatitis herpetiformis to withdraw from these normal activities, and many people with these complaints are working to create normal activities where they can forget the problem. It is important for newly diagnosed with either dermatitis herpetiformis or celiacs to ensure that they remain involved in their social life and explain their needs to family and friends.

Special Foods

Although these diseases may tend to isolate individuals with the complaint, the situation is becoming less difficult year by year. Manufacturers are now making a wide range of very acceptable breads, and some pastas (notoriously horrible in the past) that are virtually indistinguishable from "normal" pasta. Restaurants are beginning to offer gluten free menus and are recognizing the size of the market that is largely not catered for. Celiacs and those with dermatitis herpetiformis should not be afraid to ask establishments how they can cater to them. Where the question has been asked repeatedly, the proprietors tend to recognize the need, and become aware of the revenue that is lost where they do not provide a full range of products.

In many ways beer seems to be the hardest gluten free product to "get right". However, gluten-free beer is now available and there is now a range of ales, beers, and lagers to choose from. Around the world standards of "gluten free" vary. For example, while in the United Kingdom a beer with less than 20 parts per million gluten (20ppm) is "gluten free", in Australia it is not possible to describe any product as such if any gluten can be detected at all. Similarly, some "gluten free" breads can contain low levels of gluten in one country, in another they would contravene labeling or food standards legislation.

However, large scale commercial beers are out of the question for those who cannot consume gluten,[1] [2] [3] regardless of the sometimes misleading advice on some brewery websites. It is likely that most people with dermatitis herpetiformis celiacs will be able to drink beer at under 20ppm (in moderation) without causing themselves any harm. It is important, however, for consumers of all "low gluten" foods and beverages to tell their consultant, and to ensure that even if the obvious symptoms are absent, there are no other negative effects continuing that they are unaware of.

However, the development of a range of gluten free beers is an example of those who cannot consume gluten "working together to socialize normally and avoid isolation caused by their special dietary needs. It also represents part of the return to a ‘normal’ life."[4]


  1. "Ask the Beer Fox - Is Straub's Beer Gluten Free ?". Carolyn Smagalski, Bella Online. 2006. Text " Carolyn Smagalski " ignored (help)
  2. "Is Nigerian Guinness Gluten Free ?". Carolyn Smagalski, Bella Online. 2006. Text " Carolyn Smagalski " ignored (help)
  3. "Ask the Beer Fox – Is Standard Lager Beer Safe for Coeliacs?". Carolyn Smagalski, 2006. Text " Carolyn Smagalski " ignored (help)
  4. "First-Ever Gluten-Free Beer Festival Quenches Celiacs' Thirst". Robert La France, 2006. Text " Robert La France " ignored (help)

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