Autoimmune Subepidermal Bullous Diseases of the Skin and Mucosae: Clinical Features, Diagnosis, and Management

Kyle T. Amber*, Dedee F. Murrell, Enno Schmidt, Pascal Joly, Luca Borradori

*Corresponding author for this work
46 Citations (Scopus)


Autoimmune subepidermal blistering diseases of the skin and mucosae constitute a large group of sometimes devastating diseases, encompassing bullous pemphigoid, gestational pemphigoid, mucous membrane pemphigoid, epidermolysis bullosa acquisita, and anti-p200 pemphigoid. Their clinical presentation is polymorphic. These autoimmune blistering diseases are associated with autoantibodies that target distinct components of the basement membrane zone of stratified epithelia. These autoantigens represent structural proteins important for maintenance of dermo-epidermal integrity. Bullous pemphigoid (BP) is the most common subepidermal autoimmune blistering disease of the skin and mucosae. Although the disease typically presents with a generalized blistering eruption associated with itch, atypical variants with either localized bullous lesions or “non-bullous” presentations are observed in approximately 20% of patients. A peculiar form of BP typically associated with pregnancy is pemphigoid gestationis. In anti-p200 pemphigoid, patients present with tense blisters on erythematosus or normal skin resembling BP, with a predilection for acral surfaces. These patients have antibodies targeting the 200-kDa basement membrane protein. Epidermolysis bullosa is a rare autoimmune blistering disease associated with autoantibodies against type VII collagen that can have several phenotypes including a classical form mimicking dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, an inflammatory presentation mimicking BP, or mucous membrane pemphigoid-like lesions. Mucous membrane pemphigoid (MMP) is the term agreed upon by international consensus for an autoimmune blistering disorder, which affects one or more mucous membrane and may involve the skin. The condition involves a number of different autoantigens in the basement membrane zone. It may result in severe complications from scarring, such as blindness and strictures. Diagnosis of these diseases relies on direct immunofluorescence microscopy studies and immunoserological assays. Management of affected patients is often challenging. We will here review the clinical and immunopathological features as well as the pathophysiology of this group of organ-specific autoimmune diseases. Finally, we will discuss the diagnostic approach and the principles of management in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)26-51
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2018

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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