Immunobullous disorders affect the skin by causing severe blistering in the skin and mucous membranes of the mouth, eyes, or genital areas. Immunobullous disorders occur when the body’s immune system errantly makes antibodies to the skin proteins. Immunobullous disorders usually require a skin biopsy for diagnosis, and oftentimes bloodwork. Immunobullous disorders are not contagious.
Three of the more common immunobullous disorders we see include bullous pemphigoid, pemphigus vulgaris and pemphigus foliaceus. In general immunobullous disorders are rare.
Pemphigus vulgaris is the most common and most severe form of immunobullous disorders. Typically a person has sores or blisters in their mouth, and oftentimes also blisters on the body. These blisters are soft and easily broken. It is most often found in people between 40 and 60 years of age although it can occur at any age. Pemphigus vulgaris can be quite painful.
Pemphigus foliaceus is the least severe of these disorders. Typically the protein that causes the blistering is only found on the top (superficial) layer of skin. These blisters are soft and easily broken. They may begin on the scalp and move to other parts of the body including the chest, back and face.
Bullous pemphigoid causes severe blistering on the surface of the skin. Blisters in bullous pemphigoid are firm and do not break easily. People with bullous pemphigoid experience intense itching and burning in their skin. This disease can be mild but also chronic (meaning that there is no cure).
It is important to detect and diagnose immunobullous disorders early. When the disease lingers for long periods of time untreated, the sores can become infected. If the disease is found early, treatment can be effective. For most people these diseases can be managed and medications may eventually be discontinued. It typically entails steroids and immunosuppressive drugs.
For more information on immunobullous disorders, please visit the International Pemphigus Foundation and the American Autoimmune-Related Diseases Association, Inc.