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Skin Disease of the Week: Dermatitis Herpetiformis – Why Avoiding Gluten is NOT Pathognomonic of Hipsterism

Dermatitis Herpetiformis - Why Avoiding Gluten is NOT Pathognomonic of Hipsterism New Braunfels, TX

You probably know at least on hipster who claims to have some dietary intolerance of gluten. You may also think they are just following some trend. Perhaps that is true. However, there is an actually legitimate reason some people can’t eat gluten and it widely acknowledged by pretty much every doctor. That condition is called celiac disease and it is a gastrointestinal problem which is highly associated with dermatologic disease. We are going to focus on the skin disease in this blog today and the skin disease is called dermatitis herpetiformis.

Although its name may suggest that it is related to herpes, dermatitis herpetiformis is actually an autoimmune disorder that causes intense itching and a blistering rash. In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for dermatitis herpetiformis.


Dermatitis herpetiformis typically presents as a group of itchy, blistering bumps on the skin. These bumps are usually small, about the size of a pencil eraser, and they often appear in clusters. The rash is commonly found on the elbows, knees, scalp, and buttocks. The itching can be so intense that it can cause sleep disturbances and lead to scratching, which can cause scabs and skin discoloration.


Dermatitis herpetiformis is caused by an autoimmune reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. The exact reason why gluten triggers the autoimmune reaction is not fully understood. However, it is known that people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system, are more likely to develop dermatitis herpetiformis.


The most effective treatment for dermatitis herpetiformis is a gluten-free diet. This means avoiding all sources of gluten, including bread, pasta, cereals, and processed foods that contain wheat, rye, or barley. A gluten-free diet can be challenging, but it is essential for managing symptoms and preventing long-term complications.

In addition to a gluten-free diet, medications may also be prescribed to relieve symptoms and reduce inflammation. These medications may include dapsone, a drug that can relieve itching and reduce blistering. Other medications may include corticosteroids.


Dermatitis herpetiformis is a skin condition that can be challenging to manage, but it is essential to seek medical care if you suspect you have it. Left untreated, dermatitis herpetiformis can lead to scarring and other long-term complications. If you have celiac disease or suspect you may be gluten intolerant, it is important to talk to your doctor about testing for dermatitis herpetiformis. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most people with dermatitis herpetiformis can effectively manage their symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.