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Acupuncture and a gluten-free diet relieve urticaria and eczema in a case of undiagnosed dermatitis


The purpose of this case report is to describe the use of acupuncture and a gluten-free diet (GFD) for urticaria and severe eczema in a patient with undiagnosed dermatitis herpetiformis and atypical or extraintestinal celiac disease.

Clinical Features

A 48-year-old woman presented with intense urticaria, eczema, worsening heartburn, chronic constipation, headaches, and an intense feeling of heat for 4 months. Results of punch biopsies of the skin lesions and laboratory tests were inconclusive. After the acupuncture sessions reported here ended, human leukocyte antigen blood typing revealed celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis–associated human leukocyte antigen DQ-8. Results of an endoscopy and colonoscopy were negative.

Intervention and Outcome

The patient received 3 acupuncture treatments a week for 12 weeks. The patient's symptoms began in March 2008. She began using topical and oral steroids and felt that her symptoms were not responding. Acupuncture began in July 2008. At the end of the first 12 treatments, during which she was using topical and oral steroids, the urticaria and constipation resolved completely; and she had temporary relief from the heartburn. It is thought that the urticaria and constipation resolved because of the acupuncture as that was the only change. At the end of the second 12 treatments, during which time she had started Optifast, a GFD, the heartburn, headache, and eczema resolved. At the end of the third 12 treatments, all her symptoms remained resolved. Steroid treatment was discontinued after the first 12 treatments.


Acupuncture and diet changes appeared to provide relief from the urticaria and eczema of dermatitis herpetiformis beyond that obtained by traditional treatment of a GFD alone.

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