Pemphigus is a group of rare autoimmune diseases that cause blistering of the skin and mucous membranes (mouth, nose, throat, eyes, and genitals). This condition can occur at any age, but often strikes people in middle or older age. Studies have shown that some populations may be at greater risk for certain types of pemphigus. For instance, people of Jewish descent and those from India, Southeast Europe, and the Middle East are at greater risk for pemphigus vulargis, while pemphigus foliaceus is more common in North America, Turkey, and South America. Pemphigus is a chronic disease which is best controlled by early diagnosis and treatment. Treatment includes steroids to reduce inflammation, drugs that suppress the immune system response and antibiotics to treat associated infections.
Treatment of pemphigus may consist of three phases: control, consolidation, and maintenance. The control phase involves intense therapy until no new lesions develop. In the consolidation phase, therapy continues until existing lesions have cleared. In the maintenance phase, medications are gradually reduced to the lowest possible dose that prevents the development of new lesions. Different medications may be used alone or in combination depending on the severity in each person. Medications that may be used to treat pemphigus include:
Corticosteroids - topical corticosteroids may be enough for people with mild pemphigus, but many people need systemic (oral) corticosteroids.
Rituximab - this is an injection that may be used if other medications are causing serious side effects or are ineffective. It is a biologic therapy that targets the cells responsible for making pemphigus antibodies.
IVIG (intravenous immune globulin)- this is an intravenous treatment that may be given over the course of several days.
Plasmapheresis (also called plasma exchange) - this is a therapy that removes the responsible antibodies from the blood.
Last updated: 11/30/2017
Are there any 'alternative' treatments for pemphigus?
To date, no studies have shown that alternative, homeopathic, or any other non-traditional method has been successful in treating pemphigus. However, alternative therapies may be useful to help reduce drug side effects, once the disease is under control.
Last updated: 3/3/2010
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