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Pruritus since childhood

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The itchy rash had been previously diagnosed as psoriasis. But treatment provided minimal relief. So what was causing the itch?



A 48-year-old woman experiencing homelessness presented to our clinic with a 4-week history of an intensely pruritic rash on her upper back and bilateral upper extremities. She reported that she had experienced exacerbations and remissions of the rash in similar locations for the past several years and during childhood. Factors that exacerbated the rash included being outdoors and being exposed to heat. Her pruritus was intensified by scratching the skin and was significantly worse at night. Previous doctors had diagnosed her with psoriasis and prescribed a short trial of hydrocortisone cream and oral antihistamines, but they provided minimal relief.

The patient indicated that the itching interrupted her sleep and her skin’s appearance made it difficult to get a job. The physical exam revealed excoriated and erythematous papules and patches on her upper back, the extensor and flexor aspects of her bilateral forearms, and the dorsal surface of her bilateral wrists, hands, and fingers (FIGURE 1). Her skin was dry and scaly with pigmentary changes and skin thickening (FIGURE 2). She denied any other systemic symptoms. Her hair and nails were normal, she had no palpable lymph nodes, and she was afebrile. She reported suffering from seasonal allergies, but wasn’t aware of a family history of skin disorders.

Excoriated, erythematous papules and patches on arm image
Lichenification and hyperpigmentation of hands image



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