Photo Rounds

Scars and color changes on face

A 30-year-old woman presented to her family physician (FP) with scars and color changes that had developed on her face over the previous year. She said she was not feeling ill but was worried about the changes and scarring.

What’s your diagnosis?


Scars and color changes on face

The FP recognized the scarring, skin atrophy, erythema and hyperpigmentation in the malar distribution as discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE). Upon examination, the FP noted similar patterns (with the addition of hypopigmentation) in the conchal bowls of both pinna. This was confirmatory for the DLE diagnosis (AKA chronic cutaneous lupus). (If in doubt, a 4-mm punch biopsy could be performed on the lesions of the face.) Without the lesions in the ears, sarcoidosis might have been considered as part of the differential diagnosis.

DLE lesions are characterized by discrete, erythematous, slightly infiltrated papules or plaques. Hypopigmentation develops in the central area and hyperpigmentation develops at the active border. Resolution of the active lesion results in atrophy and scarring.

In this case, the FP explained the diagnosis of DLE to the patient and ordered testing for antinuclear antibodies (ANA), a complete blood count, and comprehensive metabolic panel. All the labs were normal, and the ANA was negative, which confirmed that this was not a case of systemic lupus erythematosus. Patients with only DLE generally have negative or low-titer ANA titers.

DLE therapy includes corticosteroids (topical or intralesional) and oral antimalarials, such as hydroxychloroquine. The FP in this case started the patient on hydroxychloroquine 200 mg bid and topical triamcinolone 0.1% applied twice daily to the erythematous portions of the cheeks for 2 weeks. At the 2-week follow-up, the patient’s skin looked less red and inflamed and she was happy with the improved appearance of her skin. Patients on hydroxychloroquine need a baseline eye exam by an ophthalmologist and then yearly exams after 5 years of therapy to detect any retinal or visual field problems.

Photos and text for Photo Rounds Friday courtesy of Richard P. Usatine, MD. This case was adapted from: Pye A, Mayeaux, EJ, Mishra V, et al. Lupus. In: Usatine R, Smith M, Mayeaux EJ, et al. eds. Color Atlas and Synopsis of Family Medicine. 3rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2019:1183-1193.

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