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What Is Autoimmune Progesterone Dermatitis?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Autoimmune progesterone dermatitis is a rare medical condition that causes skin abnormalities related to the menstrual cycle. Ulcers may form in the mouth, or various skin manifestations mimicking other medical conditions, such as eczema or other forms of urticaria, may form. The rash associated with this condition typically goes away a few days after the affected woman's menstrual period stops, typically recurring the following month. Pregnant women may develop it as well as a result of normal hormonal fluctuations. Although this condition is not completely understood, it is thought to be caused due to a sensitivity or unexplained allergy to the female hormone known as progesterone.

Skin abnormalities among women with autoimmune progesterone dermatitis typically begin during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, which usually occurs between five and seven days before the menstrual period begins. Symptoms normally fade or disappear completely five to seven days after the menstrual cycle ends. Pregnant women may sporadically develop symptoms at any time, although many have reported that the symptoms remain on roughly the same schedule as the pre-pregnancy cycle.

The specific symptoms may vary from woman to woman or even from cycle to cycle. Skin ulcers may develop on the lips or inside the mouth, or raised, sometimes itchy lesions may develop on various areas of the body. These lesions can sometimes be mistaken for other skin disorders, such as eczema or allergic reactions. In fact, this form of dermatitis is so rare that, unless the affected woman or a medical professional tracks the precise schedule of symptoms, this condition can potentially go undiagnosed indefinitely.

Exposure to progesterone, usually in the form of birth control pills, is thought to partially sensitize some women to this hormone, leading to the development of autoimmune progesterone dermatitis. Other theories suggest that the body is reacting to some other allergen, although no direct cause is found in most cases of this disorder. Some studies suggest that women with a condition known as endometriosis may be more prone to developing this problem.

Treatment for this disorder is varied based on individual response to the treatment options available. Some patients respond favorably to the use of prescription medications, although some of these drugs may stop menstruation and ovulation completely, leaving the patient infertile. In more extreme cases, one or both ovaries may need to be surgically removed. Any questions or concerns about the condition or the best treatment options on an individual basis should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

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Discussion Comments
By anon958583 — On Jun 28, 2014

I'm 17 and I have been having this condition for about one and a half years. I have two spots on my face. For the first few months, they come when I'm having my period but they gradually go away. However, it is always the same two spots whenever my period comes. Hence, it is now permanent on my face.

I've tried several different lightening creams but none of them seem to work. I also have really severe menstrual cramps; the type where I cannot do anything for a day or two and just lie down and cry myself to sleep.

By anon948756 — On May 01, 2014

I'm 28 and in the process of being diagnosed with Endo. I have had these symptoms since I got my first period and they've only gotten worse when I was put on birth control to stop endo. I am now on visanne, and it's the only thing that stops my endo pain, but I still have this skin reaction! I'm waiting to see a dermatologists, but so far no creams work.

By anon349754 — On Sep 29, 2013

I'm 23 and (I believe) I've had this since I first got my period at age 11 and it appears a few days before my period and lasts a few days after my period (but the itchiness decreases after my period starts). I've seen doctors and specialists throughout the years, but I haven't actually been diagnosed with anything except having a "period rash" that will "most likely go away after I get pregnant". I've tried so many different topical creams, but none work completely. In addition to my rashes, I break out pretty badly and have painful cramps.

My rashes can appear anywhere on my body and if I scratch (which I can't help), the rash grows and spreads like crazy. Also, I don't just have a rash on one location; I'll have several going at the same time on different parts of my body.

I've yet to see a doctor who will say I have this condition, but all the signs point to it, right?

By anon342393 — On Jul 20, 2013

I am 36 years old and I have been dealing with this for a couple years now. I have lesions on my limbs and torso, but the areas change. They do not hurt, but the itching is all consuming. I have psoriasis and eczema. This is different.

I have noticed that it became worse after the birth of my third child. I did not have any breakouts when I was pregnant. I get itchy red lesions seven to 10 days prior to my menses, and at the point when I'm about to lose my mind due to the itching, they magically disappear. I have noticed it is much worse during the summer months too. I'm looking for any relief.

By anon322838 — On Mar 01, 2013

I have just turned 44 and the hives, hot/cold flashes, just started out for me this past July (2012). Since then, the hives are more prominent and seem to last longer, itch more, and are starting to affect the bottom of my feet.

For AIPD, I have read that testing for progesterone/estrogen allergies is one way to help show if your body is reacting to its own hormones. I am trying now to find a doctor who specializes in this, as none in my town do. Where I can go? I have been directed to Texas Tech Medical Dermatology Center.

How I can get this information out to more people? It is so agonizing to go through this, especially when there has never been a problem in the past. I am not allergic to any food, shampoo, soaps etc. I do have prescription allergies so I know none of those are the problem.

I have a call into a doctor in San Antonio at this time, as well. If I am able to find out if he deals with AIPD, I will definitely be adding his information here.

By anon284140 — On Aug 08, 2012

I believe I have this for the past three years. Ever since I had my daughter, I get hives on my lips and face and it's the same spot every month, to the point where there is a permanent black patch on my skin.

I live in South Florida and I am not able to find a doctor who will diagnose me. I am so desperate to find out what is wrong with me. I want to have more kids and I am wondering if this is the reason why I have not been able to conceive. Can someone please help? This disease has caused my self-esteem to be so low and I am not feeling attractive like I did before.

By anon279760 — On Jul 14, 2012

@ddljohn: I am 26 years old. I have two children and have had my tubes tied since January 2009. About eight months ago I started getting these round quarter sized itchy patches on the back of my leg almost to my upper arm every month. It never fails. The week before I start my cycle I get horrible headaches and my arms and legs hurt. (they hurt bad this last time). I have chills and then get really hot and my legs and feet and hands swell.

This last year and half my mom has been having a huge problem finding out whats wrong with her. She had a hysterectomy in January 2007 she was fine until about a year and half ago and she said that her fingers and feet lose circulation and go numb. It was not a problem until she noticed it was getting worse.

The doctor ran a lot of tests for Scleroderma, Lupus, you name it. Finally the doctor gave up and said it's Raynaud’s phenomenon.

My question: how do we get tested for this? Is there anything I can do to see if this is what is affecting us? Please, if you can help I would be very grateful. Thank you for your time in advance. --Tiffany

By serenesurface — On Apr 27, 2012

@turkay1-- It could be. Why don't you get checked out? I have a neighbor who has this condition (so do I) and the only symptom she has is eczema. Maybe the severity of the symptoms depend on the severity of the allergy.

Does anyone here think that there is a link between progesterone deficiency and autoimmune progesterone dermatitis?

I actually found out last week that I have a deficiency in progesterone (levels are lower than normal). My doctor didn't say this outright, but this might be contributing to my allergy. Maybe my body is used to really low levels of progesterone and when there is a release of progesterone prior to menstruation, it causes symptoms of dermatitis?

By ddljohn — On Apr 27, 2012

@turkay1-- I don't think you have autoimmune progesterone dermatitis.

I've had it for the past five years and my symptoms are much more severe than just acne. I get a rash, fatigue, pain in limbs and blisters about a week to ten days before my period. The symptoms disappear a day into my period. Sometimes I also get hot flash like symptoms.

I don't know how much symptoms vary from person to person but I think they're almost always more severe than acne. You should consult with your doctor to find out more about your acne breakouts. You can also look at autoimmune progesterone dermatitis photos online. It'll give you a good idea of what it looks like.

By candyquilt — On Apr 26, 2012

Can autoimmune progesterone dermatitis symptoms be as mild as acne?

I get a terrible breakout of acne all over my face starting from a week before my period and it goes after my period is over. I've been trying to figure why this has been happening and my guess was just hormonal changes.

But is it possible for this to be due to autoimmune progesterone dermatitis? I don't get lesions, ulcers or anything like that thankfully. So I must not have this condition right?

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