Pemphigus vulgaris is an
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Pemphigus is an autoimmune disorder. The immune system produces
Sometimes pemphigus is caused by certain medications, although this is rare. Medications that may cause this condition include:
A drug called penicillamine, which removes certain materials from the blood (chelating agent)
Blood pressure medications called ACE inhibitors
Pemphigus is uncommon. It almost always occurs in middle-aged or older people.
About 50% of people with this condition first develop painful blisters and sores in the mouth, followed by skin blisters. Skin sores may come and go.
The skin sores may be described as:
- Peeling or easily detached
They may be located:
- In the mouth
- On the scalp, trunk, or other skin areas
Signs and tests
The skin separates easily when the surface of unaffected skin is rubbed sideways with a cotton swab or finger. This is called a positive
Severe cases of pemphigus may need wound management, similar to the treatment for severe
Treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms, including pain. It also aims to prevent complications, especially infections.
Treatment may involve:
Antibiotics and antifungal medications to control or prevent infections
electrolytesgiven through a vein (IV)
IV feedings if there are severe mouth ulcers
Numbing (anesthetic) mouth lozenges to reduce mouth ulcer pain
Pain medications if local pain relief is not enough
Body-wide (systemic) therapy is needed to control pemphigus and should be started as early as possible. Systemic treatment includes:
An anti-inflammatory drug called dapsone
Medications containing gold
- Medications that suppress the immune system (such as azathioprine, methotrexate, cyclosporin, cyclophosphamide, mycophenolate mofetil, or rituximab)
However, side effects from systemic therapy are a major complication.
Some antibiotics are also effective, particularly minocycline and doxycycline. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) is occasionally used.
Plasmapheresis is a process in which antibody-containing plasma is removed from the blood and replaced with intravenous fluids or donated plasma. Plasmapheresis may be used along with systemic medications to reduce the amount of antibodies in the blood.
Ulcer and blister treatments include soothing or drying lotions, wet dressings, or similar measures.
Without treatment, this condition is usually life-threatening. Severe infection is the most frequent cause of death.
With treatment, the disorder tends to be
- Secondary skin infections
- Severe dehydration
- Side effects of medications
- Spread of infection through the bloodstream (
Calling your health care provider
Your health care provider should examine any unexplained blisters.
Call your health care provider if you have been treated for pemphigus vulgaris and you develop any of the following symptoms:
General ill feeling Joint aches Muscle aches
- New blisters or ulcers