I enjoy The Saturday Evening Post very much and especially Medical Mailbox. I am seeking information about my health problem, pemphigus. What treatments are recommended?
Any advice or input about living with this incurable skin disease would be appreciated. I need help.
Pemphigus, an autoimmune disease that causes blistering of the skin, tends to affect middle-aged and older adults and is more frequent in those of Middle Eastern or Jewish heritage. We sent your letter to Dr. Robert A. Swerlick, chairman of the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Dermatology in Atlanta, Georgia, who replied:
“In some cases, topical medications may be sufficient to treat this disease. In many cases, however, prompt and sufficient doses of corticosteroids, usually prednisone or prednisolone, are required to bring pemphigus under control. Some patients then go into remission; many need a small maintenance dose to keep the disease under control.
In addition, doctors may commonly prescribe other immunosuppressant drugs in order to limit systemic steroid doses. Finally, newer biologic drugs, including IVIg and rituximab (brand name: Rituxan) have been helpful for some patients. To date, no studies have shown that alternative, homeopathic, or any other nontraditional method has been successful in treating the disease. Patients may also consider treatments to help reduce drug side effects, once the disease is under control. Patients on drug therapy for pemphigus must be monitored on a regular basis, and those taking systemic steroids should have periodic bone density tests. For more information and support, visit pemphigus.org.”