Case Letter

Atrophodermalike Guttate Morphea

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Practice Points

  • Atrophodermalike guttate morphea is a potentially underreported or undescribed entity consisting of a combination of clinicopathologic features.
  • Widespread hypopigmented macules on the trunk and extremities marked by thinned collagen, fibroplasia, and altered fragmented elastin in the papillary dermis and upper reticular dermis are the key features.
  • Atrophoderma, morphea, and lichen sclerosus et atrophicus should be ruled out during clinical workup.



To the Editor:

Morphea, atrophoderma, guttate lichen sclerosus et atrophicus (LS&A), anetoderma, and their subtypes are inflammatory processes ultimately leading to dermal remodeling. We report a case of a scaly, hypopigmented, macular rash that clinically appeared as an entity along the morphea-atrophoderma spectrum and demonstrated unique histopathologic changes in both collagen and elastin confined to the upper reticular and papillary dermis. This case is a potentially rare variant representing a combination of clinical and microscopic findings.

A 29-year-old woman presented for an increasing number of white spots distributed on the trunk, arms, and legs. She denied local and systemic symptoms. The patient reported that she was stung by 100 wasps 23 years prior. Following the assault, her grandmother placed chewed tobacco leaves atop the painful erythematous wheals and flares. Upon resolution, hypopigmented macules and patches remained in their place. The patient denied associated symptoms or new lesions; she did not seek care at that time.

In her early 20s, the patient noted new, similarly distributed hypopigmented macules and patches without associated arthropod assault. She was treated by an outside dermatologist without result for presumed tinea versicolor. A follow-up superficial shave biopsy cited subtle psoriasiform dermatitis. Topical steroids did not improve the lesions. Her medical history also was remarkable for a reportedly unprovoked complete rotator cuff tear.

Physical examination revealed 0.5- to 2.0-cm, ill-defined, perifollicular and nonfollicular, slightly scaly macules and patches on the trunk, arms, and legs. There was no follicular plugging (Figure 1A). The hands, feet, face, and mucosal surfaces were spared. She had no family history of similar lesions. Although atrophic in appearance, a single lesion on the left thigh was palpably depressed (Figure 1B). Serology demonstrated a normal complete blood cell count and comprehensive metabolic panel, and negative Lyme titers. Light therapy and topical steroids failed to improve the lesions; calcipotriene cream 0.005% made the lesions erythematous and pruritic.


Figure 1. Multiple slightly scaly, hypopigmented macules coalescing into patches on the flank (A) as well as hypopigmented macules and a minimally depressed patch on the left thigh (B).

A biopsy from a flank lesion demonstrated a normal epithelium without thinning, a normal basal melanocyte population, and minimally effaced rete ridges. Thin collagen bundles were noted in the upper reticular and papillary dermis with associated fibroplasia (Figure 2). Verhoeff-van Gieson stain revealed decreased and fragmented elastin filaments in the same dermal distribution as the changed collagen (Figure 3). There was no evidence of primary inflammatory disease. The dermis was thinned. Periodic acid–Schiff stain confirmed the absence of hyphae and spores.


Figure 2. Normal epidermis with minimally effaced rete ridges and thinned collagen in the upper reticular and papillary dermis, not seen in the lower dermis, without overall thinning of the dermis (A)(H&E, original magnification ×40). Normal collagen bundles in the lower reticular dermis (B)(H&E, original magnification ×200).


Figure 3. Normal epidermis (A)(Verhoeff-van Gieson, original magnification ×40). Normal elastin network in the lower reticular dermis; note the normal size of elastin fibers (B)(Verhoeff-van Gieson, original magnification ×200).

The relevant findings in our patient including the following: (1) onset of hypopigmented macules and patches following resolution of a toxic insult; (2) initially stable number of lesions that progressed in number but not size; (3) thinned collagen associated with fibroplasia in the upper reticular and papillary dermis; (4) decreased number and fragmentation of elastin filaments confined to the same region; (5) no congenital lesions or similar lesions in family members; and (6) a complete rotator cuff tear with no findings of a systemic connective-tissue disorder such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

We performed a literature search of PubMed articles indexed for MEDLINE using combinations of the terms atrophic, hypopigmented, white, spot disease, confetti-like, guttate, macules, atrophoderma, morphea, anetoderma, elastin, and collagen to identify potentially similar reports of guttate hypopigmented macules demonstrating changes of the collagen and elastin in the papillary and upper reticular dermis. Some variants, namely atrophoderma of Pasini and Pierini (APP), guttate morphea, and superficial morphea, demonstrate similar clinical and histopathologic findings.

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