The Rash That Outlasts


A 63-year-old man says the 20-year-old rash on his face first appeared one summer. Although it slackens a bit each winter, it flares up again when the weather warms—despite a bevy of OTC and prescription topical treatments.

The patient has consulted many providers, including several dermatologists, who have diagnosed the butterfly rash of lupus. But blood tests failed to bear out that theory, and no one has ever biopsied it.

The patient spent many years working in the sun with minimal to no protection. He denies fever, malaise, joint pain, or other illness. He denies having a similar rash elsewhere on his body.

A symmetrical, strikingly red, extensive rash covers most of both sides of the patient’s face. There is epidermal scaling and roughness and large areas of obvious follicular enlargement, atrophy, and telangiectasias.

Punch biopsy shows a multitude of changes: atrophic epithelium, basal vacuolar changes, an intense dermal lymphocytic infiltrate, liquefaction degeneration, and apoptotic keratinocytes. Compact orthokeratosis is noted on the surface, and increased mucin formation in the dermis.

What is the diagnosis?

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