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What Are the Different Types of Dermatitis Herpetiformis Treatment?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Jan 29, 2024
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Dermatitis herpetiformis treatment is centered primarily on consuming a gluten-free diet, although prescription medications may be used during the initial stage of treatment. Ultraviolet light therapy may help to alleviate some of the symptoms of this disorder. Certain over-the-counter pain relievers, known as NSAIDS, may make the condition worse and should be avoided during treatment. Any questions or concerns about dermatitis herpetiformis treatment options in an individual situation should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

A gluten-free diet is believed to be the most reliable treatment method. Gluten is a certain type of protein that is found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. Food labels must be examined closely in order to determine whether the item contains gluten, as this protein is found in many foods, even though gluten may not be specifically listed on the label. This diet will normally have to be followed for life in order to ensure that the symptoms do not return.

A specific type of antibiotic, known as diaminodiphenyl sulfone, may sometimes be used as a form of dermatitis herpetiformis treatment. In most cases, this antibiotic is prescribed when the condition is diagnosed and is often discontinued after the patient begins to adjust to a gluten-free diet. If symptoms return, additional treatments with this antibiotic may be required.

Ultraviolet light therapy may occasionally be used as a treatment. This type of therapy may or may not help reduce the symptoms of this condition. Due to the unpredictability concerning the success of this form of treatment, it is usually reserved for instances in which medication and dietary changes do not provide adequate symptom relief.

Some additional medications that may have limited success in dermatitis herpetiformis treatment include prednisone, cyclosporine, and colchicine. None of these medications provide consistent symptom relief. Cyclosporine should be used with caution, as this medication may increase the risk of developing a specific form of cancer known as intestinal lymphoma.

Ibuprofen is the recommended medication for pain relief during treatment. Most pain relievers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, or NSAIDS, including aspirin and naproxen, are not typically recommended for use among those with this disorder. Ibuprofen seems to be the only medication in this category that is not prone to making the symptoms worse. Acetaminophen appears to be a safe choice in pain relief for most people as well.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Jul 27, 2013

If an entire household is not gluten-free, cross contamination can happen. Even a tiny amount of gluten can cause dermatitis herpetiformis and Celiac symptoms.

I had this problem and none of the treatments (antibiotics, steroid creams, anti-inflammatory medications) were working. I had to separate all my food and eating utensils from my family's. I put them in different cabinets on the opposite side of the kitchen. This actually worked.

By burcinc — On Jul 27, 2013

@turkay1-- Going gluten-free is the best treatment for dermatitis herpetiformis, but it can take a while. Two weeks is not a long enough time to know whether a gluten-free diet will resolve your dermatitis. I would give it a good two months before suspecting that it's not working.

When I first started eating gluten free, it took a month and a half for my dermatitis to resolve. I think it takes a while for our body to detox and go back to normal. I know it's hard but you have to be patient.

Are you on diaminodiphenyl sulfone? If you're experiencing a lot of itching and pain, you should be on this medication. This is not a medication that can be taken forever, but it will relieve your symptoms until the gluten-free diet starts showing its effects.

By candyquilt — On Jul 26, 2013

I was diagnosed with dermatitis herpetiformis recently and I stopped eating gluten immediately after that. I have been gluten-free for the past two weeks, but my dermatitis is not showing any improvement. What might be the reason?

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