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Once DH is confirmed, a drug called dapsone can be temporarily prescribed to provide rapid relief (within 48 to 72 hours) from the itching and burning. However, this medication has no effect on the ongoing immune response or intestinal damage that is occurring because of the intolerance to gluten.
A strict gluten-free diet is essential to heal the small intestine, reduce the risk of associated conditions and complications and to decrease or eliminate the need for dapsone.
The skin disease and intestinal damage usually respond within a few weeks to a few months on the gluten-free diet. Because it is complex, it is strongly recommended that you consult a registered dietitian with expertise in celiac disease.
While dermatitis herpetiformis is a form of celiac, other conditions are closely associated with the disease. If you have any of the following, consider also getting tested for celiac disease:
• Type 1 diabetes [Read article on celiac and diabetes here.]
• Autoimmune hepatitis
• Infertility [Read article on celiac and infertility here.]
• Down Syndrome
• Turner Syndrome
• Unexplained liver enzyme elevations
Shelley Case, RD, is an international celiac nutrition expert, consulting dietitian and author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide. See www.glutenfreediet.ca. Shelley Case is on the advisory boards of the Canadian Celiac Association, the Celiac Disease Foundation and the Gluten-Free Intolerance Group. The editors at Allergic Living additionally highly recommend her book Gluten-Free Diet, a vital resource for those interested in celiac disease and living gluten-free.