Bullous pemphigoid is an acute or chronic autoimmune skin disease, involving the formation of blisters, more appropriately known as bullae, at the space between the skin layers epidermis and dermis. It is classified as a type II hypersensitivity reaction, with the formation of anti-hemidesmosome antibodies.
In most cases of bullous pemphigoid, no clear precipitating factors are identified. Potential precipitating events that have been reported include exposure to ultraviolet light and radiation therapy. Onset of bullous pemphigoid has also been associated with certain drugs, including furosemide, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, captopril,penicillamine, and antibiotics.
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.
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.
869 people with bullous pemphigoid and 138 people with pemphigus vulgaris were identified. The median age at presentation for bullous pemphigoid was 80 (range 23-102) years, and 534 (61%) patients were female. The median age at presentation for pemphigus vulgaris was 71 (21-102) years, and 91 (66%) patients were female. Incidences of bullous pemphigoid and pemphigus vulgaris were 4.3 (95% confidence interval 4.0 to 4.6) and 0.7 (0.6 to 0.8) per 100 000 person years. The incidence of bullous pemphigoid increased over time; the average yearly increase was 17% (incidence rate ratio=1.2, 95% confidence interval 1.1 to 1.2). An average yearly increase in incidence of pemphigus vulgaris of 11% (incidence rate ratio=1.1, 1.0 to 1.2) occurred. The risk of death for patients with bullous pemphigoid was twice as great as for controls (adjusted hazard ratio=2.3, 95% confidence interval 2.0 to 2.7). For pemphigus vulgaris, the risk of death was three times greater than for controls (adjusted hazard ratio=3.3, 2.2 to 5.2). Conclusions Incidences of bullous pemphigoid and pemphigus vulgaris are increasing. The reasons for the changes in incidence are not clearly understood but have implications for identifying causative factors. Both disorders are associated with a high risk of death. Previous estimates may have underestimated the risk of death associated with these diseases.