Br J Dermatol 1994 Oct;131(4):541-5
Garioch JJ, Lewis HM, Sargent SA, Leonard JN, Fry L.
Department of Dermatology, St Marys Hospital, London, U.K.
Gluten-free diets have been used in the treatment of patients with dermatitis herpetiformis in our department since 1967. Of the 212 patients with dermatitis herpetiformis attending between 1967 and 1992, 133 managed to take the diet, and 78 of these achieved complete control of their rash by diet alone. Of the remaining 55 patients taking a gluten-free diet, all but three were taking partial diets; over half of these patients managed to substantially reduce the dose of medication required. Of the 77 patients taking a normal diet, eight entered spontaneous remission, giving a remission rate of 10%; a further two patients who had been taking gluten-free diets were found to have remitted when they resumed normal diets. Loss of IgA from the skin was observed in 10 of 41 (24%) patients taking strict gluten-free diets. These patients had been taking their diets for an average of 13 years (range 5-24 years), and their rash had been controlled by diet alone for an average of 10 years (range 3-16 years). The advantages of a gluten-free diet in the management of patients with dermatitis herpetiformis are: (i) the need for medication is reduced or abolished; (ii) there is resolution of the enteropathy, and (iii) patients experience a feeling of well-being after commencing the diet. Thus, we propose that a gluten-free diet is the most appropriate treatment for patients with dermatitis herpetiformis.