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Pemphigoid is a rare autoimmune disorder that can develop at any age, but that most often affects the elderly. Pemphigoid is caused by a malfunction of the immune system and results in skin rashes and blistering on the legs, arms, and abdomen. Pemphigoid can also cause blistering on the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, mouth, and vagina, and can occur during pregnancy in some women. There is no cure for pemphigoid, but there are many treatment options

Causes and Risk Factors

Pemphigoid is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system, which normally protects you from infection, begins to attack your healthy tissues. In the case of pemphigoid, your immune system creates antibodies to attack the tissue just below your outer layer of skin. This causes the layers of skin to separate and results in painful blistering. Why the immune system reacts this way in patients with pemphigoid is not fully understood.
In many cases, there is no specific trigger for pemphigoid. In some instances, however, it may be caused by certain medications, radiation therapy, or ultraviolet light therapy. People with other autoimmune disorders may be at a higher risk for developing pemphigoid. It is much more common in the elderly than in any other group.

Symptoms of Pemphigoid

The most common symptom of pemphigoid is blistering that occurs on the arms, legs, abdomen, and mucous membranes. Hives and itching are also common. The blisters have certain characteristics, regardless of where on the body they form:
  • they are often preceded by a red rash
  • they are large and filled with fluid that is usually clear, but may contain some blood they are thick and do not rupture easily
  • the skin around the blisters may appear normal or slightly red or dark
  • ruptured blisters are usually sensitive and painful

Treatments for Pemphigoid

Pemphigoid cannot be cured, but treatments are usually very successful at relieving symptoms. Corticosteroids, either in pill or topical form, will likely be the first treatment your doctor prescribes. These medications reduce inflammation and can help to heal the blisters and relieve itching. However, they can also cause serious side effects, especially from long-term use, so your doctor will take you off of the corticosteroids after the blistering clears up.
Another treatment option is to take medication that suppresses your immune system, often in conjunction with the corticosteroids. Immunosuppressants help, but they also put you at risk for other infections. Certain antibiotics, such as tetracycline, may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation and infection.

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