Dermatitis herpetiformis: problems, progress and prospects

Eur J Dermatol. Nov-Dec 2002;12(6):523-31.


Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) is an IgA mediated blistering skin disease characterized by the presence of granular deposits of IgA in papillary dermis. The major significant advances in our understanding of DH have been the demonstration that DH patients also have coeliac diseases (CD) and that the rash is also gluten dependent. As a result, it is now possible to cure patients by gluten withdrawal from the diet. The other major significant finding has been the presence of IgA in the uninvolved, now used as the diagnostic criterion for the disease. Despite the fact that it has been known for over fifty years that gluten causes the enteropathy of CD, and for over thirty years the rash of DH, it is still not known how gluten produces these effects. Future immunological studies may look at ways of inducing tolerance to gluten peptides once the toxic ones have been identified. Vaccination against gluten peptides may also be possible in those affected with gluten sensitive disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age of Onset
  • Autoantibodies / analysis*
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis / epidemiology*
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis / immunology*
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis / pathology
  • Dermatitis Herpetiformis / therapy
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Glutens / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / analysis
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution


  • Autoantibodies
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Glutens