Bullous pemphigoid is a skin disorder characterized by blisters.
Bullous pemphigoid is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys healthy body tissue by mistake. Specifically, the immune system attacks the proteins that attach the top layer of skin (epidermis) to the bottom layer of skin.
This disorder usually occurs in older persons and is rare in young people. Symptoms come and go. The condition often goes away within 5 years.
Most people with this disorder have itchy skin that may be severe. In most cases, there are blisters, called bullae.
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will examine the skin and ask about the symptoms.
Tests that may be done to help diagnose this condition include:
Powerful anti-inflammatory medicines called corticosteroids may be prescribed. They may be taken by mouth or applied to the skin. Medicines to help suppress the immune system may be prescribed are usually also needed.
Antibiotics in the tetracycline family may be useful. Niacin (a B complex vitamin) is sometimes given along with tetracycline.
Your provider may suggest self-care measures. These may include:
Bullous pemphigoid usually responds well to treatment. The medicine can often be stopped after several years. The disease sometimes returns after treatment is stopped.
Skin infection is the most common complication.
Complications resulting from treatment may also occur, especially from taking corticosteroids.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Contact your provider if you have:
Habif TP. Vesicular and bullous diseases. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 16.
Scott M, Werth VP. Bullous pemphigoid. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson I, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 32.
Review Date: 5/2/2017
Reviewed By: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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