Schamberg’s Disease, also known as progressive pigmented purpuric dermatitis, is a condition that is most common among young men. The main symptom is a series of lesions which appear most often on the lower limbs but can also affect other parts of the body, including the hands. The lesions are irregular in shape and orange or brown in color, due to an excess of iron.
They may contain spots called “cayenne pepper” spots inside or along the edges of the lesions. They vary in number and are generally asymptomatic though in some cases they may be accompanied by slight itching. The lesions may persist for many years but their pattern will change, either slowly extending or sometimes spontaneously clearing.
What Causes This Condition?
Schamberg’s disease occurs when leaky blood vessel walls allow red blood cells to slip through into the skin. These cells then fall apart and release iron, causing the reddish or orange shading of the lesions. Though the underlying cause of the leaky blood vessels is not known, researchers have determined several possible triggers including viral infection, a hypersensitivity to some causal agent and interaction with certain medications such as thiamine and aspirin.
There have also been a few isolated cases of the condition occurring within several generations of a single family, leading researchers to believe there is some kind of genetic factor involved. No specific genetic trigger has been identified.
How Can Schamberg’s Be Treated?
There is no permanent cure for Schamberg’s disease and since it is usually asymptomatic, often no treatment is necessary. If the associated itching becomes a problem, it can be controlled with a cortisone cream or oral antihistamine.
Several studies have been conducted into possible forms of treatment and one such treatment that has had some success is narrow band ultraviolet light therapy. A separate study looked into the effectiveness of a drug called aminaphtone, which is commonly used for venous disorders. This drug has some limited success in controlling the symptoms of Schamberg’s disease.
Taking Vitamin C supplements and using support hose to control the venous tearing may also bring some relief, but there is no extended proof of either of these treatment methods being effective.
Because there are no symptoms other than the lesions themselves, and the condition is quite rare, Schamberg’s disease can easily be mistaken for other conditions. In order to form a positive diagnosis, your doctor will have to run various tests including blood tests and a skin biopsy. There are other forms of pigmented purpuric reactions, so it is imperative that your doctor isolate an exact condition before treatment can proceed.