Pemphigus Treatment- Dermatology
Pemphigus is a rare group of blistering autoimmune diseases that affect the skin and mucous membranes. The name is derived from the Greek root "pemphix" meaning "pustule".
In pemphigus, autoantibodies form against desmoglein. Desmoglein forms the "glue" that attaches adjacent epidermal cells via attachment points called desmosomes. When autoantibodies attack desmogleins, the cells become separated from each other and the epidermis becomes "unglued", a phenomenon called acantholysis. This causes blisters that slough off and turn into sores. In some cases, these blisters can cover a significant area of the skin.
Originally, the cause of this disease was unknown, and "pemphigus" was used to refer to any blistering disease of the skin and mucosa. In 1964, researchers found that the blood of patients with pemphigus contained antibodies to the layers of skin that separate to form the blisters. In 1971, an article investigating the autoimmune nature of this disease was published.
If not treated, pemphigus can be fatal, usually from overwhelming opportunistic infection of lesions. The most common treatment is the administration of oral steroids, especially prednisone, often in high doses. The side effects of corticosteroids may require the use of so-called steroid-sparing or adjuvant drugs. One of the most dangerous side effects of high dosage steroid treatments is intestinal perforations, which may lead to sepsis. Steroids and other medications being taken to treat Pemphigus may also mask the effects of the perforations. Patients on high dosages of oral steroids should closely monitor their GI health. As lesions are usually terribly painful, it is likely that pain medication can complicate and exacerbate the GI issues caused by steroids.
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