Skin conditions can affect you physically as well as psychologically, and many have well known, easily diagnosable symptoms for which a variety of effective treatments can be utilized. On the other hand, some conditions strike and vanish without notice or have few medications that don’t do more than merely manage your condition.
Bullous pemphigoid scleroderma belongs to the latter category, which means it’s imperative that you trust your consultation, diagnosis, and treatment to world-renowned dermatologists, such as the ones at West Dermatology.
Read on to find out more about this infrequent condition and get in touch with our medical dermatologists by calling us at 888-554-8740 or filling out our online contact form. West Dermatology has offices throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona in order to provide skilled treatments that meet your unique needs.
What is Bullous Pemphigoid?
A very rare skin condition affecting fewer than 20,000 Americans a year, bullous pemphigoid, as it’s often referred to, is an autoimmune disorder that usually affects people older than 60. It begins when the immune system attacks your skin just below the surface. The disease seems to cause large, fluid-filled blisters to develop on or near areas of the body that frequently flex or fold, such as the lower belly, armpits, and groin. It also commonly appears on the chest, arms, and legs as well as in the mouth.
Although the chances of developing bullous pemphigoid increase with age, it can affect anyone of any age, and it affects men and women equally. The skin blisters that develop due so in varying degrees of severity – some people experience only a mild inflammation of their skin while others endure multiple blisters that are always at risk of bursting and/or forming ulcers.
Why bullous pemphigoid occurs is not clearly known because the cause of the malfunction in your immune system is not understood, although it is known that certain medications trigger your body’s autoimmune response.
Normally, antibodies are produced by your normally functioning immune system to fight bacteria, viruses or other potentially harmful foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria. However, in bullous pemphigoid, antibodies to the fibers connecting your epidermis (the skin’s outer layer) to your dermis (the layer just below this outer layer) cause inflammation that starts the onset of blisters and itching that characterizes bullous pemphigoid.
It’s not clear why the body reacts like this; bullous pemphigoid often appears randomly and with no clear reasons. It’s believed that some common prescription medications, such as penicillin and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), are responsible. It’s also possible that UV light used as a treatment for another skin condition could trigger this disease.
Signs and Symptoms of Bullous Pemphigoid
Diseases like bullous pemphigoid that have no clear cause make it difficult to describe the symptoms. You could have no symptoms or signs. Or you could have what are thought to be common signs of the disease, such as intense itching, breakouts of fluid-filled blisters, and rashes that look like hives. Sometimes, the symptoms come and go unpredictably. Other times, they stay for months or years before disappearing for good.
One thing is for certain – if blisters develop on your body, especially large ones for no apparent reason (such as contact with poison ivy or a known skin allergen), contact West Dermatology.
Bullous Pemphigoid Treatment
If you or your dermatologist suspects that you have this disease, you may be given a blood test or a skin biopsy to help diagnose your issue.
Once it’s determined that you have the disease, several types of treatments can be prescribed, though there is no known cure:
Prednisone is a common option. In pill form or as an injection, it may cause unwanted side effects, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, and even cataracts. So, proper administration and management is important. Corticosteroid ointments may be recommended because of fewer side effects.
Immune System-Suppressing Medications
Medications such as azathioprine (Imuran, Azasan) block your body’s production of the white blood cells that normally fight disease but are now attacking your skin.
Anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken alone or along with corticosteroids. A common antibiotic, tetracycline, is often administered on its own as well as in conjunction with Niacin (a B-complex vitamin). Other options include methotrexate (Trexall) or dapsone (Aczone).
Because there’s no cure, it’s good to be levelheaded about what to expect from treatment, the goal of which should be to help the skin heal and relieve the itching. Steroid pills and topical steroid creams and ointments can help on both accounts.
Additional Options to Manage Your Skin Blisters
You can help manage the condition yourself by following these tips.
- Skin Protection – Together, bullous pemphigoid and corticosteroid ointment can conspire to weaken your skin, which can cause a blister to break. If this happens, dress it with a dry, sterile bandage to shield it from infection.
- Stay Away from Sun Exposure – Especially avoid prolonged exposure to affected areas of your skin.
- Avoid Certain Foods – For mouth blisters due to this condition, don’t eat hard or crunchy foods – chips or raw fruits and vegetables. They likely will aggravate symptoms.
Learn more about Bullous Pemphigoid treatment at WebMD.com.
Talk to West Dermatology about Treatment
Normally, bullous pemphigoid isn’t fatal. However, for those already in poor health, it can be. That’s why if you experience an outbreak of unexplained blisters, you shouldn’t disregard it. While the disease is somewhat unpredictable and isn’t currently curable, treatment options do exist. Contact West Dermatology in Arizona, Nevada, or California today through a phone call or by using our online contact form for a consultation about your situation.
Next, read about Eczema and Dermatitis.