Based on the clinical appearance of hyperpigmented and hypopigmented scaly plaques in sun-exposed facial areas (with associated scarring and follicular plugging in affected lesions), the patient was given a diagnosis of discoid lupus erythematosus. The diagnosis was confirmed with a punch biopsy that showed characteristic interface dermatitis with superficial and deep perivascular and peri-adnexal lymphocytes. Direct immunofluorescence showed a band of C3 at the dermo-epidermal junction, consistent with various forms of cutaneous lupus.
A review of systems was negative for signs of systemic disease, including a lack of weakness, joint pain/swelling, fever, or known blood clots. An antinuclear antibody panel was also negative, largely excluding systemic disease.
Discoid lupus erythematosus is a form of cutaneous lupus. Patients often are genetically predisposed to autoimmune disease, and disease may be triggered by sun exposure. Up to 80% of patients develop lesions that are limited to the head and neck. Up to 25% of patients develop systemic lupus erythematosus that may occur months—or even decades—after the initial diagnosis. Lesions may lead to longstanding scars; this cannot always be prevented.
Two- to 3-week trials of topical potent or superpotent steroids applied to affected plaques may lead to clearance. Additionally, lesions may be treated with intralesional triamcinolone 3 mg/mL to 10 mg/mL and repeated every 3 to 4 weeks. Systemic therapies include hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, retinoids, steroid sparing immunomodulators, and rarely prednisone.
This patient tolerated topical therapy well and though some scars remained, he was able to control flares with 2- to 3-week courses of clobetasol 0.05% twice daily. He is followed 2 to 3 times annually and has not developed signs or serologic findings of systemic disease over several years.
Photos and text for Photo Rounds Friday courtesy of Jonathan Karnes, MD (copyright retained). Dr. Karnes is the medical director of MDFMR Dermatology Services, Augusta, ME.