Celiac disease causes many symptoms, but one of the most curious is the telltale celiac disease skin rash commonly associated with this condition, which is sometimes inappropriately referred to as a gluten allergy rash. The actual medical term for it is dermatitis herpetiformis (no link to herpes), and it affects about 11 out of 100,000 people, mostly men in their 20’s to 40’s, and up to 25 percent of those with diagnosed celiac disease. Because the disease affects the small intestine and damage therein caused from a destructive reaction from the body in response to gluten consumption, many people find it unusual that the symptoms often manifest in the form of a rash on body surfaces.
Often misdiagnosed, itchy celiac disease skin rash is a chronic condition that involves small blisters that are filled with a fluid that has been described as watery. The rash can be so itchy that many people end up with crusts or scabbing from excessive itching. These small blisters can appear anywhere on the body, but most often appear on the face, groin, hairline, back, knees, elbows and buttocks. Again, the placement of the rash can be misleading because the vast affected areas can often lead to a diagnosis of other forms of dermatitis like eczema. The rash can increase in scope and severity depending on the amount of offending gluten that is ingested, which can actually serve as a diagnostic tool.
Another interesting observation with celiac disease skin rash is the associated skin discoloration that can occur. This discoloration isn’t caused by the celiac skin rash itself, rather the healing of previous lesions that have either been scratched or otherwise tampered with until scabs and crusts have formed.
Since the exact causes of this condition have not been scientifically confirmed except for the genetic component, the causes of skin rash associated with it are also largely unknown. However, even though the disease is chronic, the symptoms of celiac disease skin rash can be managed with dietary changes that are necessary in order to control the condition.
If you suspect that your skin changes are associated with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, speak to your doctor. It’s important to not make dietary changes until a physician advises so because these changes can affect the diagnostic testing for the condition. Symptoms of celiac disease, including dermatitis herpetiformis, can be burdensome and uncomfortable, however with proper physician intervention and dietary accommodations, all symptoms can be typically well managed.