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From Mary Shomon Your Thyroid Guide

Chronic Hives, Rashes Associated with Bacteria, Autoimmunity: Antibiotics or Thyroid Drugs May Be an Effective Treatment for Urticaria

by Mary J. Shomon

March 2001 -- If you have chronic hives and rashes -- a condition known as urticaria -- that come and go, some studies have shown that one common -- but usually overlooked -- cause of such hives is infection with the Helicobacter pylori -- or H. pylori -- bacteria.

This is the same bacteria that has been found to cause some stomac ulcers. Researchers discovered that the antibiotics given to the ulcer patients to rid them of the H. Pylori also cleared up the chronic urticaria.

The researchers also believe that for some patients with chronic urticaria, there is a link to autoimmune disease, and in particular, thyroid disease, as a significant percentage of patients with urticaria also have high levels of antithyroid antibody, even though they may not have clinical thyroid disease.

In a study, ten patients with chronic urticaria who had normal thyroid levels (but seven of the ten had elevated antithyroid antibodies and three controls had no antithyroid antibodies) were treated with the synthetic thyroid drug levothyroxine.

While receiving the levothyroxine, the seven patients reported that their urticaria symptoms went away within 4 weeks. The three controls did not respond. In five patients, symptoms recurred after treatment was stopped; these symptoms again resolved after treatment was restarted.

The researchers concluded that thyroid autoimmunity may be associated with chronic urticaria in some patients who are euthyroid, and that treatment with thyroid hormone can result in remission of their urticaria. While the antithyroid antibodies demonstrated autoimmunity, their levels had no correlation to the urticaria's actvitity. The lower thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level with treatment did have a direct relationship to the reduction of symptoms, however, leading the researchers to speculate that an inflamed thyroid gland may be releasing something that causes the urticaria.

(Reference: Resolution of chronic urticaria in patients with thyroid autoimmunity. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1995;96:901-5.)
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