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Herpes Rash And The Connection To Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

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Dr. David Peterson, Living Wellness
Thyroid Nation

The link between Hashimoto’s and the Herpes rash is this: If you have any thyroid issue, whether it is Hashimoto’s, low thyroid or hyperthyroid, you will have an issue with gluten sensitivity.

Is Your Herpes Breakout Really A Gluten Rash?

Are you suffering from occasional herpes outbreaks on areas of your body but not on the genitals?  Those with a sensitivity to gluten often develop blistering rashes that are often mistaken for a herpes outbreak.

A Local Dermatologist told us he is upsetting the GI docs because he is diagnosing gluten sensitivity/celiac more than they are. He is sending patients out to be tested for gluten sensitivity/celiac when he sees these blistering rashes. He says if the fluid from one of these blisters is collected and tested it comes back very frequently positive for gluten sensitivity. However, most these rashes are so itchy, patients scratch and break the blisters before it can be collected.

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Are you frustrated because the herpes medication doesn’t seem to control it or provide any relief? A good way to control the outbreaks would be to identify the causes, and take effective measures to ensure that they remain out of your daily life. How was your herpes diagnosed? What if your herpes outbreak wasn’t caused by virus. What then?

Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), an itchy, stinging, blistering skin rash, occurs when your skin reacts to gluten antibodies circulating in your system. Some people call dermatitis herpetiformis a “gluten rash” or a “celiac disease rash” because it occurs in conjunction with a sensitivity to gluten. Regardless of the presentation or symptoms, a positive diagnosis of DH always indicates that a gluten sensitive enteropathy is occurring.

Dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) can often be misdiagnosed and frequently confused with skin conditions such as: allergies, bug or mosquito bites, contact dermatitis, diabetic pruritus, eczema, herpes, shingles, hives and psoriasis.

DH faceReddened skin, circular bumps, and blisters filled with clear, neutrophil (white blood  cell), containing liquid are very common. Skin lesions and scarring can also appear, particularly in patients that scratch and irritate the skin during outbreaks.

The onset of DH may be acute or gradual, appearing in the same location every time. DH outbreaks are very often mirrored, meaning that the rash will occur on both sides of the body in exactly the same place. The hallmark sign of DH is an intensely itchy, blistering skin rash.

DH can appear anywhere on the body; however, It most frequently present in the following areas:

  • Buttocks
  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Lower back
  • Scalp
  • Mouth

Dermatitis herpetiformis sufferers usually experience to rash in the same location every time. The rash might be continuous, or it might come and go.

Before the actual dermatitis herpetiformis breaks out, your skin may itch in that location, or it might feel is if it’s burning.  The rash itself usually includes reddened skin plus multiple small, pimple like-bumps which contain a clear liquid.

The dermatitis herpetiformis bumps usually take several days to heal (during which time new bumps usually appear nearby), and once healed, only behind small purple marks that lasts for weeks or months.  People with long-standing dermatitis herpetiformis usually have continuously reddened skin where the rash occurs.

As the name implies, dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) looks herpetic and is sometimes mistaken for a herpes virus. Red plaques erupt in groups of blisters, in the resulting intense itch can disturb sleep.

Who Does Dermatitis Herpetiformis Affect?

Unlike gluten sensitive enteropathy or celiac disease, which is diagnosed more often in women, dermatitis herpetiformis is more common in men. In fact, some studies show a male-to-female ratio of up to 2-to-1 in dermatitis herpetiformis patients. Men are more likely to have a typical oral or genital lesion.

DH can affect people of all ages but most often appears for the first time between the ages of 15 and 40. People of northern European descent are more likely than those of African or Asian heritage to develop DH.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis is an autoimmune blistering disorder associated with a gluten sensitive enteropathy. People with DH have a condition of the intestinal tract identical to that found in gluten sensitive enteropathy or celiac disease, although gastric symptoms might be absent. Autoimmune processes can be arrested if the interplay between the Neuro-Endo-Immune Supersystem and environmental triggers is prevented by re-establishing intestinal barrier function.

How does a disorder that damages the intestines show up on the skin?

When a person has gluten sensitive enteropathy and consumes gluten, the mucosal immune system in the intestines responds by producing a type of antibody called Immunoglobulin A. As IgAs enters the bloodstream, they can collect in small vessels under the skin, triggering further immune reactions that result in the blistering rash of DH.

The first clue that a skin eruption may be DH is that “it itches like crazy.” People are digging at themselves. As a result the blisters are almost always broken open by the time the DH suffer seeks medical help.

The second characteristic sign of DH is its location on the body. Lesions most often appear on the extensor surfaces – the forearms near the elbows, the knees, and the buttocks. The outbreak of the lesions also tends to be bilateral, meaning it appears on both sides of the body.

The grouping of the lesions provides a final clue. Although DH is not caused by a herpes virus, its lesions resemble those of herpes and hence the word herpetiformis. In both conditions, lesions are formed in small groups. Still, DH is often confused with eczema, a common inflammatory skin disorder that, like DH, results in an itchy rash that is often scratched raw.

A gluten sensitive enteropathy is different from celiac disease in that a gluten sensitivity is the result of a microscopic colitis. The damage to the gastrointestinal lining in microscopic colitis is not bad enough for a biopsy or endoscopy to see enough damage to be called celiac disease. Many patients report they have been checked by their doctor and were told their lining was red or irritated. So they did not have a gluten sensitivity because they did not have celiac. Many healthcare providers also assume a person’s immune system is always working at 100% optimal efficiency. When in fact, the immune system is so fatigued from constant exposure to gluten. It cannot create a response in the normal fashion.

Breaking with Bread

A strict gluten – free diet may take weeks to clear up an outbreak. Accidental ingestion of gluten will cause symptoms to recur. Hidden sources of gluten can prolong the outbreak.

For some it will be as easy as maintaining a gluten free lifestyle. Others will require our help in quenching the immunoglobulin reaction, controlling the immune response, restoring the digestive chemistry and repairing the gastrointestinal lining to enable them to maintain themselves through diet and lifestyle.

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About the Author

Herpes-Rash-And-The-Connection-To-Hashimotos-ThyroiditisDavid Peterson, DC, DCCN, FAAIM is a 1994 graduate of Logan College of Chiropractic.   During Logan College, Dr. Peterson studied Sacro Occipital Technique (SOT), Chiropractic Manipulative Reflux Technique and Craniopathy. find him at Wellness Alternatives in California. Follow him on Twitter. **This article originally featured on WellnessLiving.com**

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you Dr. Peterson for this article. Someone shared it on a Thyroid/LDN facebook group.

    I have this and had my first episode last year in July. And am just ending another one now.

    However, mine do not go away in a few days. They last longer than that.

    I assumed it was something related to adrenal fatigue and stress in my life. I have been eating more gluten recently, but typically eat a small amount.

    The dermatologist said it was eczema… and prescribed a topical ointment called Betnovate (I’m in MX) that clears it up in a couple of weeks.

    Is it always related to gluten or can it also be triggered by stress?

    Thanks again, Carol

  2. Many people are not aware of herpes disease. They often think its herpes if something happens to their skin in fear of herpes. Every people should read this article. And Herpes Awareness is a most to spread among all people.

  3. ChRissy Taylor on

    Thanks so much for this article…. About 20 yrs ago I had this rash on my neck during a very stressful time in my life.( dr diagnosed shingles).. 12 years ago I began getting these small patch of extremely painful blisters on my fingers, I still get them occasionally, usually after I’ve been very upset…4 yrs ago I remarried & it’s been the most stressful period of my life & I began getting a rash on my lower back just above buttocks , I showed it to my Obgyn & she scraped it &’sent to lab, it came back as herpes virus… Last year I was also diagnosed hypothyroid… This seems to be my rash, but what about the positive test on my back for herpes?

  4. I have a niece on my side with celiac disease and a nephew on my husbands side with celiac disease. I feel my children may have celiac or a sensitivity. My oldest daughter gets very unusual cysts on her face along with tiny pus filled pimples (very itchy) started in her early 20’s, my youngest has bad eczema since 15 months exactly like you described she is now 21 and still has most of the time, also bad dry and itchy scalp. My son get such bad mouth ulcers he has a hard time eating. I have had them tested many years ago and my sons numbers were a little on the high side but doctor was not concerned. Years ago they did not know as much about celiac disease as today and my nephew is a diabetic so they were not to concerned with a hereditary
    factors because my niece was not diagnosed till many years later. Do you think my concerns are legit? Wt type of doctor should they see if so.

    • Hi Lauren,

      You are right, there is so much that they/we know now, that we didn’t used to. Celiac and gluten sensitivity do play a large role in many symptoms and I’m betting you are correct. Testing and a good functional medicine doctor might be good to try to start out. Keep us posted ~Danna

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