Lancet. 2005 Jul;366(9479):61-73. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)66829-8.


Pemphigus is a rare autoimmune disease that results in blistering of the skin and oral cavity. It is caused by autoantibodies directed against cell-surface antigens on keratinocytes, which when targeted lose their cellular adhesion properties and separate from one another to form blisters within the epidermis. Differences in the particular antigens targeted by the antibodies and in the distribution of these antigens in the different regions of the body and in the separate layers of the epidermis result in different clinical manifestations of the disease. The disease is diagnosed based on its clinical manifestations (flaccid blisters and erosions on skin and oral mucosa), histology (epidermal acantholysis), and immunological abnormalities (circulating and tissue-fixed antibodies against keratinocyte surface antigens). Pemphigus, which if left untreated is almost always fatal, is generally managed with topical, oral, or intralesional corticosteroids. Other options include plasmapheresis and intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg), coupled with cytotoxic drugs. Immunosupressants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and antibiotics are used as adjuvants, but apart from IVIg, these therapy options are non-specific and more research is needed to develop treatments with improved side-effect profiles.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Pemphigus* / diagnosis
  • Pemphigus* / epidemiology
  • Pemphigus* / physiopathology
  • Pemphigus* / therapy