Gluten sensitivity produces a host of seemingly nonrelated symptoms, including an itchy scalp. If you suspect you have a gluten intolerance, visit your doctor so that he can perform tests that confirm the diagnosis and recommend an effective treatment plan depending on the seriousness of your allergy.
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Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disorder that can seriously damage the small intestine if it goes untreated. It occurs when a person develops a severe aversion to gluten. The condition manifests itself by attacking the villi, which are tiny projections that protrude from folds in the intestine. The villi become inflamed, and this inflammation keeps the body from absorbing nutrients it needs to remain healthy.
The most common symptoms of celiac disease are gastrointestinal in nature. People with gluten sensitivity may experience gas, abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea if they eat something that contains or has been contaminated by gluten. However, some people have an entirely different set of symptoms. They suffer from a condition called dermatitis herpetiformis.
Dermatitis herpetiformis is a chronic skin condition that's linked to gluten sensitivity. Symptoms include a severe, itchy rash that first appears as a red or discolored patch. If the person continues to eat gluten, the patch with turn into a cluster of painful, irritating bumps and blisters. Dermatitis herpetiformis often appears on the scalp. However, it also commonly occurs on the neck, shoulders, lower back, buttocks, knees and elbows.
Treating an itchy scalp that's caused by dermatitis herpetiformis usually requires a couple of different tactics. First, a doctor generally orders the patient to stop eating gluten entirely. This usually stops the condition from worsening and reverses some of the effects. Doctors can also prescribe oral and topical medications that ease and heal the itchy rash.
There is no cure for gluten-sensitivity-related dermatitis herpetiformis. Those who experience this condition must be vigilant in following the doctor's advice if they want to avoid developing the itchy rash on the scalp and other parts of the body in the future.
- "The Doctor's Guide to Gastrointestinal Health"; Paul F. Miskovitz and Marian Betancourt; 2005
- "Gluten-Free Italian"; Jacqueline Mallorca; 2009
- "American Medical Association Concise Medical Encyclopedia"; American Medical Association; 2006