Bullous pemphigoid is a skin disorder characterized by large blisters.
The cause is not known, but may be related to immune system disorders, certain other diseases, or use of some medications.
Bullous pemphigoid usually occurs in elderly persons and is rare in young people. Symptoms come and go. In most patients, the condition goes away within 5 years.
Some people have no symptoms. Others may have mild redness, itching and irritation.
In severe cases, they are multiple blisters, called bullae. Blisters are usually located on the arms, legs, or middle of the body. About one-third of persons with bullous pemphigoid also develop blisters in the mouth. The blisters may break open and form ulcers or open sores.
Other symptoms may include:
Exams and Tests
Tests that may be done to help diagnose this condition include:
- Blood tests
- Skin lesion biopsy
Powerful anti-inflammatory medicines called corticosteroids may be prescribed. Some corticosteroids are taken by mouth, while others require a shot (injection). In persons with early forms of the disease, corticosteroid creams may be used.
Your doctor may prescribe chemotherapy or medicines to help suppress the immune system.
Antibiotics in the tetracycline family may be useful in mild cases. Niacin (a B complex vitamin) is sometimes given along with tetracycline.
Bullous pemphigoid usually responds well to treatment. Most patients stop taking medicine after several years. The disease sometimes returns after treatment is stopped.
Skin infection is the most common complication.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your doctor for an appointment if you have:
- Unexplained blisters on your skin
- An itchy rash that continues despite home treatment
Bernard P, Borradori L. Pemphigoid group. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 30.
Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 16.
Update Date 5/15/2013
Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.