Patient writes in with a question concerning round red circles…
“I have a skin disorder called GRANULOMA ANNULA (round red circles slightly raised) Doesn’t hurt or itch, wouldn’t know you have it unless you can see it. The doctors sent me to a skin specialist in the city and they all said they don’t know what causes it therefore they can’t treat it. The other day I did some more research and it said there’s a strong possibility it is caused from wheat gluten. I did an experiment and ate some wheat bread and it got really red. Then I stopped eating the flour products for 4 days and I couldn’t believe what happened, it almost disappeared.”
The skin condition known as Granuloma annulare is a painless condition where different areas of the skin have, as you said, round, raised and reddish circular areas. It is usually either localized on the hands and feet or found all over the body. The doctors you spoke to are correct in saying there is no known “cause”….but there are lots of conditions where we don’t really understand the cause, and these are treated all the time!
What they probably should have said is that we don’t really know how to treat it but many times the localized condition stops on its own. In fact, in a recent review article on Granuloma annulare, it states “Because localized granuloma annulare is self-limited, no treatment other than reassurance may be necessary.” The spread out form of granuloma annulare is treated with a wide range of agents which have some potentially serious toxic side effects—these include medications such as “dapsone, retinoids, niacinamide, antimalarials, psoralen plus ultraviolet A therapy, fumaric acid esters, tacrolimus, and pimecrolimus1.”
Now, I’m all for minimizing treatment with medications, but it sounds like you didn’t get much in the way of information and reassurance from the doctors. You don’t say whether you have the localized type or if it is all over your body, but you have discovered at least one approach that works well for you!
Granuloma annulare can affect both males and females of all ages, but it is mainly diagnosed in women (about twice as many women as men) before the age of 30. It appears to run in some families and have seasonal peaks in the spring and fall2. It generally goes away on its own within two months to two years, but can last as long as 10 years….that’s an awful long time to wait!
In naturopathic medicine, we think of the skin as one of the most important organs of the body—its protects us, is a source of Vitamin D….but it also is an organ of excretion—the skin is one of the main ways we get rid of toxins and is one of the important areas where tolerance and sensitivity to foods, beverages, drugs and various toxins show up. As an example, many drugs have rashes and skin eruptions as a side effect. Your experiment with gluten showed you that your reaction to gluten was a specific skin reaction- Granuloma annulare. I think you have found your own best treatment—and I think you will find living gluten-free has many other benefits besides clearer skin!