Wheat intolerance is a general medical term that may reference either a wheat allergy or celiac disease. A wheat allergy is an immune system reaction that affects various parts of your body and could lead to life-threatening reactions. Celiac disease is a condition in which the lining of your small intestines are damaged by your immune system when you eat any product that contains gluten, a protein in wheat. Both types of wheat intolerance can cause skin problems, such as hives, eczema or dermatitis herpetiformis.
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Wheat allergies are common among children, but can occur at any age. Symptoms are caused by an exaggerated immune system reaction. Instead of identifying the proteins in wheat as harmless, the immune system mistakes them as dangerous. This causes the body to create immunoglobulin E antibodies, or IgE, that attempt to fight off the proteins. The introduction of IgE antibodies into the bloodstream causes the production of histamine in your skin, leading to rashes.
Wheat allergy rashes can cause general inflammation and irritation in your skin that’s not related to a particular rash. For example, after eating wheat, you may develop itching, burning or stinging in your face or throat. Hives are a common rash from a wheat allergy. Hives develop in clusters of welts, in various shapes and sizes, that can develop from one area of the body to another. Eczema can also form as a result of wheat allergy. Eczema can cause dry, patchy areas of skin or it can create blisters that look like pimples. Both skin reactions are extremely itchy and worsen when they’re scratched.
Celiac disease is not the same condition as a wheat allergy. Celiac disease is an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barely and rye. Your small intestines are lined with hair-like particles called villi, which play a vital role in absorbing nutrients and vitamins from the foods you eat. If you have celiac disease, the presence of gluten causes damage to the villi. Permanent damage to the villi can result in malnourishment and weight loss. If you have celiac disease, even a tiny amount of gluten can cause significant damage to your intestines.
The most common rash to develop from celiac disease is dermatitis herpetiformis. If you have celiac disease, shortly after you eat foods that contain wheat, you will develop a rash that is defined by bumps and blisters. The rash is extremely itchy and can come and go for seemingly no reason. The rash is known for creating symmetrical inflammation on both sides of the body or face.