Coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac, sometimes spelt celiac) is an autoimmune disease triggered by eating foods made with gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye and sometimes oats.
For those with Coeliac Disease, eating gluten damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents the absorption of various nutrients. But other parts of the body may also be affected by gluten, particularly the skin, which can react by breaking out in an intensely itchy, stinging rash made up of tiny fluid-filled blisters. It is known as ‘gluten rash’ or ‘coeliac disease rash,’ but its medical name is Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH).
Dermatitis herpetiformis can form anywhere on the body but is mostly found on the elbows, knees, buttocks, lower back and the back of the neck. It is one of the itchiest skin conditions you can experience. Your skin may feel as if it’s burning before the actual rash breaks out, which, although it may come and go, is usually in the same location every time.
The dermatitis herpetiformis bumps usually take several days to heal (during which time new bumps usually appear nearby), and once healed, will leave behind small purple marks that last for weeks or months. People with long-standing DH usually have continuously reddened skin where their rash occurs.>
Who Does Dermatitis Herpetiformis Affect?
DH is more common in men than women and typically first surfaces in your teens, 20s or 30s. It is rare in children under 10 but it is known for babies to develop DH after weaning onto cereals which contain gluten.
Your doctor will probably prescribe a medication called dapsone to offer some initial relief from the itching associated with dermatitis herpetiformis, but the only long-term treatment to keep it at bay is to follow a gluten-free diet.
Gluten-free diet and Dry Skin
Following a gluten-free diet often leads to dry skin as cutting out wheat, rye and barley can lead to a lack of some nutrients found in cereal foods, such as Vitamin E and B vitamins, important for healthy skin.
Eating sunflower and corn oil, almonds, spinach, broccoli and other leafy green vegetables and sunflower seeds and fortified gluten-free cereals can all help counteract dry skin.