Pemphigus vulgaris is an autoimmune disorder that involves blistering and sores of the skin and mucus membranes. Pemphigus vulgaris usually begins with blisters in the mouth, which then erupt on the skin. Blisters can also break out on the mucous membranes of genitals. The blisters typically are painful, but don't itch. Blisters in the mouth or throat may make it hard to swallow and to eat.
In people with PV, the immune system makes antibodies against a protein that binds the skin cells together. As a result, the binding between many skin cells is broken and this causes the cells to separate from each other. Fluid builds up between the separated cells and forms blisters.
Severe cases of pemphigus require wound management, similar to the treatment for severe burns. People with PV may need to stay in a hospital and receive care in a burn unit or intensive care unit.
Treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms, including pain. It also aims to prevent complications, especially infections. Without treatment, this condition is usually life threatening. With treatment, the disorder tends to be chronic. Side effects of treatment may also be severe or disabling.
Most cases develop in people aged over 50. It is very rare in children. Men and women are equally affected. It is more common in certain groups of people - those from the Mediterranean, Indian subcontinent or of Jewish origin. PV is not infectious and it cannot be caught from an affected person.