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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    These Seven Common Skin Conditions Are Associated With Celiac Disease

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Celiac disease is associated with at least seven skin conditions.


    Caption: Image: CC--Karolina Mis

    Celiac.com 03/26/2019 - People with gluten intolerance often have non-gastrointestinal symptoms, including several common skin conditions. If you have celiac disease or other sensitivity to gluten, a gluten-free diet may help to improve symptoms of these associated skin conditions. 

    These Seven Common Skin Conditions are Associated with Celiac Disease

    Acne
    Links between celiac and malabsorption, as well as hormonal upset can contribute to a greater production of acne.  Many birth control pills boast promises of clearer skin, their method is through hormone manipulation.  Because many who suffer from gluten intolerance also experience a disruption of normal hormone function, this disharmony can lead to problems with acne. There are some anecdotal reports that acne can improve on a gluten-free diet.

    Canker Sores (Aphthous Stomatitis)
    Technically, the mouth is not part of the skin, but we include canker sores, since they are one of the most common non-gastrointestinal celiac symptoms, and easily visible in the mirror. Nearly 20% of people with symptomatic celiac disease had canker sores as one of their symptoms. In many cases, these canker sores are recurrent, and can be one of the few or only signs of celiac disease.

    Dermatitis Herpetiformis
    This painful, blistery condition can be very stressful, especially when misdiagnosed.  An inflamed, itchy rash, dermatitis herpetiformis begins as tiny white filled blisters or red spots around hair follicles.  Trying to hide or disguise DH, as well as trying to treat it when misdiagnosed can be incredibly stressful for a person. Read more on celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis at Celiac.com.

    Dry Skin
    Also correlated to malabsorption, dry skin is a very common complaint amongst those with celiac.  But this condition is one that many people see even after the prescribed treatment of a gluten free diet.  Why?  Vitamin E rich grains are vital to maintaining skin harmony, but since many who are gluten intolerant begin avoiding grains completely—even those grains that are gluten-free, getting that important Vitamin E in their diets can become a challenge.

    Eczema
    Eating a gluten-free diet is becoming an increasingly popular mode of treatment for eczema.  Those who are gluten intolerant also tend to have more advanced psoriasis.Psoriasis—Like eczema, psoriasis has in many cases shown improvement when the person is put on a gluten free diet.  In Scott Adams’ 2004 article, he also mentioned that psoriasis in those with celiac tends to be more severe.

    Psoriasis
    Psoriasis is a common, chronic, genetic, systemic inflammatory disease that usually manifests as itchy plaques of raised red skin covered with thick silvery scales. Psoriasis is usually found on the elbows, knees, and scalp but can often affect the legs, trunk, and nails. There’s been very little research done on the association between celiac disease and psoriasis. That means there’s just not much good information. Some people with psoriasis claim to see benefits on a gluten-free diet, but that is purely anecdotal.

    One interesting finding recently was that psoriasis patients who do not have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity commonly show high levels of antigliadin IgA antibody, and would likely benefit from a gluten-free diet.

    Some earlier studies have shown that celiac disease antibodies correlate with psoriasis activity, though little follow-up has been done, so there’s still a lot of confusion about any connection to celiac disease?

    Read more on celiac disease and psoriasis at Celiac.com.

    Rosacea
    Rosacea is a common inflammatory skin condition that shares the same genetic risk location as autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) and celiac disease. Some studies have shown high rates of immune conditions in rosacea patients, while others have shown a connection between rosacea, celiac and other diseases. Still, more research is needed to nail down the connection. The most recent study showed that rosacea is associated with T1DM, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis in women, whereas the association in men was statistically significant only for rheumatoid arthritis.

    Again, for people with celiac disease, or a sensitivity to gluten, symptoms of these skin conditions may improve or disappear on a gluten-free diet.
     


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    Excellent article on skin conditions! Decades ago, I self-diagnosed due to my doctor's apparent lack of knowledge on gluten intolerance. He recommended an over the counter gas relief product, which contained gluten.

    I have had all of the skin conditions in your article except psoriasis.

    The first indicator/s of a gluten attack for me (very few since the beginning), are ulcers, stomach cramps, followed by really horrible diarrhea. The most impressive part of my recovery was the eventual total absence of headaches. Since recovery, I have never had another headache. It's been several decades for me.

    I used to take part in the celiac.com forum back when.

    Pat Bridges, now 77

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    I was diagnosed with celiac 6 years ago. If I have been inadvertently “glutened”, dry scaly patches appear above my eyebrows! Anyone else?

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    3 hours ago, Guest Sheri said:

    I was diagnosed with celiac 6 years ago. If I have been inadvertently “glutened”, dry scaly patches appear above my eyebrows! Anyone else?

    So - not the eyebrows, but my son gets red patches and dry flaky skin around his hairline. He has psoriasis in his scalp which was really quite bad before his diagnosis. Small doses of gluten (like from contaminated pans) cause skin problems and lethargy before they make him sick.

     

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    I had severe psoriasis for a number of years. Then I was diagnosed with celiac disease. After being gluten free for 2 years, it dawned on me that my psoriasis was gone! No one would believe me that it was connected. But there was no other explanation. 

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    Adding another skin condition to your list...Amyopathic Dermatomyositis. An itchy, autoimmune, sun sensitive rash that can affect the scalp, eyes, face, chest, shoulders, back, outer thighs, elbows, knees, knuckles and cuticles.

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    I have white blotches on my arms and legs, they came from nowhere last summer. My Dr. said it is a fungus under the skin, not requiring antibiotics. the internet says it is Vitilogo, which is not curable. I also have the other celiac issues, blotting, gas, diarrhea, ect. I feel better if i don't eat gluten, but the blotches never get better.  Are they  autoimmune, will they go away eventually?

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    19 hours ago, Paula L.S. said:

    I have white blotches on my arms and legs, they came from nowhere last summer. My Dr. said it is a fungus under the skin, not requiring antibiotics. the internet says it is Vitilogo, which is not curable. I also have the other celiac issues, blotting, gas, diarrhea, ect. I feel better if i don't eat gluten, but the blotches never get better.  Are they  autoimmune, will they go away eventually?

    Probably not if it is autoimmune.  You can have more than one autoimmune disorder going on at the same time.  A Gluten Free diet might help calm the immune response (inflammation) but it is strongly recommended to get tested for celiac disease prior to eliminating gluten from your diet.  Ask your doctor for a celiac blood panel.  

    Here is more advice:

    https://www.umassmed.edu/vitiligo/blog/blog-posts1/2016/01/should-i-change-my-diet-or-take-supplements-for-my-vitiligo/

    Join our forum.  You will get better responses from those who have celiac disease or NCGS.  

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    Guest Shannon Crews

    Posted

    I have had psoriasis since I was a teenager. I was diagnosed with Celiac at the age of 40 (I’m now 49) When I get “glutened” my psoriasis flairs up.

    It would make sense since wheat and flour are contributors of inflammation.

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    On 4/2/2019 at 9:37 AM, Guest Sheri said:

    I was diagnosed with celiac 6 years ago. If I have been inadvertently “glutened”, dry scaly patches appear above my eyebrows! Anyone else?

    Yes, mine is associated with sebohoreah (spelling?) of the scalp. My scalp is extremely itchy. I now use an Aragan shampoo seems to work better than all the sterioid shampoos I was given RX's for!

     

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    On ‎6‎/‎21‎/‎2019 at 6:14 PM, Paula L.S. said:

    I have white blotches on my arms and legs, they came from nowhere last summer. My Dr. said it is a fungus under the skin, not requiring antibiotics. the internet says it is Vitilogo, which is not curable. I also have the other celiac issues, blotting, gas, diarrhea, ect. I feel better if i don't eat gluten, but the blotches never get better.  Are they  autoimmune, will they go away eventually?

    If you really have vitiligo (see a dermatologist to confirm), then yes, it is autoimmune, and no, it will not go away. It is not related to Celiac Disease other than the fact that people who have autoimmune disorders often have more than one. I have three (that I know about).  

    I have had vitiligo since I was 16. I was originally diagnosed with a fungus as well by my doctor, but when I saw a dermatologist, he knew what it really was. Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system attacks and destroys the cells that manufacture the pigment (color) in your skin and they will not grow back. So your skin is permanently without pigment in those areas, and it usually spreads. I personally didn't mind it spreading because when it was only in some places and I was "splotchy" it was WAY more noticeable, especially in the summer when the pigmented areas tanned. After 30 years, I have so few pigmented spots left (and they're more toward the central part of my body covered by clothes) that there's no contrast, so people just think I am very, very light skinned. It doesn't look weird anymore - there are plenty of people who have very little pigment naturally.  

    I would definitely see a dermatologist, though. There are other things that can cause white patches that might be treatable (that fungus IS actually a real thing, it just wasn't my thing). And if it does turn out to be vitiligo, you need to start being a lot more careful about your sun exposure. Pigment is the body's natural defense against sun damage, and if you don't have it...there's no barrier. You will burn quickly and are at higher risk of skin cancer.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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