Author(s): Aoyama H, Tanaka M, Hara M, Tabata N, Tagami H
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Abstract BACKGROUND: The pathogenesis of nummular eczema (NE) is still unknown. It often develops on the lower legs of elderly individuals with xerotic changes during the winter months. Such winter exacerbation is also observed in atopic dermatitis, in which there is a high incidence of cutaneous immune reactivities against environmental aeroallergens. OBJECTIVE: Because of the total lack of information about skin reactivities in NE patients, we performed immunological as well as functional studies in their uninvolved skin. METHOD: Prick tests and chamber scarification patch tests for representative aeroallergens were conducted on the flexor surface of the forearm in 26 NE patients, in 21 age-matched elderly persons without NE and in 43 healthy young controls. RESULTS: We found that the elderly subjects, regardless of their background, showed a significantly higher immediate skin reactivity to Candida albicans than the young controls. In contrast, patch testing revealed that, unlike the age-matched elderly subjects who showed a decrease in incidence of positive patch test reactions, the NE patients retained delayed contact sensitivity at a level comparable to that of the young healthy controls. They showed a significantly higher percentage of positive patch test reactions to Dermatophagoides farinae allergen (46\%) and house dust allergen (35\%) than the age-matched controls. Moreover, they also showed a significantly higher percentage of delayed hypersensitive reactions to C. albicans allergen (85\%) than the age-matched controls (48\%). Noninvasive functional assessment of the stratum corneum (SC) in unaffected skin areas of the lower legs in 8 NE patients demonstrated that, though the water barrier function of the SC was comparable to that of the age-matched controls, they showed a significantly lower hydration state of the SC than the age-matched controls. CONCLUSION: The xerotic skin of elderly individuals facilitates the development of cracking and fissuring of the skin surface in dry and cold winter. Such damage in the SC is sometimes aggravated by inadvertent scratching due to pruritus, allowing skin permeation of various environmental allergens. They may induce eczematous changes in those with preserved adequate delayed hypersensitivity despite their advanced age.
This article was published in Dermatology
and referenced in General Medicine: Open Access