Acne fulminans successfully treated with prednisone and dapsone

Acne fulminans tratada com prednisona associada à dapsona

Abstracts

Acne fulminans is a rare condition and the most severe form of acne. It involves the sudden onset of febrile and multisystemic symptoms, with poor response to ordinary therapy in patients who previously had mild to moderate acne. It is characterized by hemorrhagic ulcerative crusting lesions on the face, chest and upper back. The authors report a case of acne fulminans that was successfully treated with oral prednisone and dapsone.

Acne vulgaris; Arthritis; Dapsone; Prednisone


A acne fulminans é uma condição rara e a mais severa forma de acne. Manifesta-se com um quadro agudo, febril e multissistêmico, resistente à terapêutica convencional em doentes com antecedente de acne leve ou moderada. As lesões são caracteristicamente úlcero-hemorrágicas e acometem preferencialmente tórax e face. Os autores relatam um caso de acne fulminans com excelente resposta terapêutica ao tratamento empregado.

Acne vulgar; Artrite; Dapsona; Prednisona


CASE REPORT

Acne fulminans successfully treated with prednisone and dapsone* * Study carried out at the Dermatologic Clinic of Getulio Vargas Hospital (Hospital Getúlio Vargas - HGV) and Federal University of Piaui (Universidade Federal do Piauí - UFPI) - Teresina (PI), Brazil.

Acne fulminans tratada com prednisona associada à dapsona

Rafael Bandeira LagesI; Sebastião Honório BonaII; Flávia Veríssimo Melo e SilvaI; Andressa Karoline Lima GomesI; Viriato CampeloIII

IUndergraduate student of the Medicine School, Federal University of Piaui (Universidade Federal do Piauí - UFPI) - Teresina (PI), Brazil

IIDermatologist. Master's degree student in Health Sciences, Federal University of Piaui (Universidade Federal do Piauí - UFPI) - Coordinator of Dermatology discipline at the Federal University of Piaui (Universidade Federal do Piauí - UFPI) - Teresina (PI), Brazil

IIIPhD in Internal Medicine from the University of São Paulo (Universidade de São Paulo - USP) - Adjunct Professor of the Department of Microbiology and Parasitology of the Federal University of Piaui (Universidade Federal do Piauí - UFPI) - Teresina (PI), Brazil

Mailing address

ABSTRACT

Acne fulminans is a rare condition and the most severe form of acne. It involves the sudden onset of febrile and multisystemic symptoms, with poor response to ordinary therapy in patients who previously had mild to moderate acne. It is characterized by hemorrhagic ulcerative crusting lesions on the face, chest and upper back. The authors report a case of acne fulminans that was successfully treated with oral prednisone and dapsone.

Keywords: Acne vulgaris; Arthritis; Dapsone; Prednisone

RESUMO

A acne fulminans é uma condição rara e a mais severa forma de acne. Manifesta-se com um quadro agudo, febril e multissistêmico, resistente à terapêutica convencional em doentes com antecedente de acne leve ou moderada. As lesões são caracteristicamente úlcero-hemorrágicas e acometem preferencialmente tórax e face. Os autores relatam um caso de acne fulminans com excelente resposta terapêutica ao tratamento empregado.

Palavras-chave: Acne vulgar; Artrite; Dapsona; Prednisona

INTRODUCTION

Acne fulminans, also known as acne maligna, is a rare and severe form of acne vulgaris that usually affects young adults, predominantly Caucasian adolescent males, aged 13-16 years. It is characterized by the sudden onset of hemorrhagic ulcerative crusting acne on the face, chest and upper back, associated with systemic symptoms such as fever, weight loss, arthralgia and myalgia in patients with a preceding history of mild to moderate acne. 1-3 The authors report a case of an adolescent male with acne fulminans presenting with severe lesions that was successfully treated with oral prednisone and dapsone.

CASE REPORT

A 15-year-old man, who had been previously diagnosed as having Grade I acne vulgaris, suddenly developed severe worsening of the acne lesions on the neck, arms, chest and upper back. Associated with cutaneous lesions, he also reported fever, chills, arthralgia and myalgia, whose intensity did not allow locomotion and spontaneous movements in bed.

At physical examination, he presented papules, pustules and crusts on the face, neck and upper limbs, and hemorrhagic ulcerations with purulent, thick, yellow adherent crust were scattered on the chest, upper back and shoulders, as shown in figure 1. Laboratory tests revealed abnormal white blood cell counts (23.2 x 103/mm3; segments 84.0%, band forms 1.0%, lymphocytes 13.0%, monocytes 2.0%) and hemoglobin (12.5 g/dl). The pelvic radiography did not reveal any abnormality.

After 21 days using oral prednisone 1 mg/kg daily and dapsone (diaminodiphenylsulfone) 100 mg daily, ulcerative lesions began to noticeably decrease and healed with scarring (Figure 2).

DISCUSSION

Acne fulminans was originally described in 1959 as acne conglobata with septicemia by Burns and Colville, who described a 16-year-old youth with acute fever and acne conglobata.4 After that, other authors also reported patients with acute fever, ulcerative acne and polyarthralgia, as Kelly and Burns (1971), who introduced the term "acute febrile ulcerative conglobate acne with polyarthralgia".5 In 1975, Plewig and Kligman separated this affection from acne conglobata and started to use the term acne fulminans, emphasizing the sudden onset and severity of this disease.6

The aetiology of acne fulminans remains unclear, but infection, genetic and immunological causes have been postulated. One of the proposed theories is that the development of acne fulminans is related to an explosive immunologically mediated type III and/or type IV hypersensitivity reaction to Propionibacterium acnes antigens.7 Precipitation of this disease by the initiation of isotretinoin therapy has also been suspected after the description of some cases. It is postulated that istotretinoin induces fragility of the pilosebaceous duct epithelium and allows massive contact of P. acnes antigen with the immune system.2,8

High blood levels of testosterone may also play an important role on the pathogenesis of acne fulminans, since there are exacerbation reports during testosterone therapy.9,10 Another theory is that acne fulminans could have an autoimmune aetiology.1,2,11 Genetic factors are also considered important, as the occurrence of acne fulminans in monozygotic twins has already been reported.12

Acne fulminans is an extremely rare condition. According to Karvonen (1993), approximately 100 patients were described.8 Patients typically have mild or moderate acne vulgaris before the onset of acute symptoms. The dermatological manifestations are highly inflammatory, painful, ulcerative lesions covered with haemorrhagical crusts, most often on the upper chest and back. The face is usually less severely involved than the trunk.3

In contrast with acne vulgaris, the systemic symptoms of sudden onset are common in acne fulminans.3 These manifestations include fever, myalgia, polyarthralgia, osteolytic bone lesions, malaise, fatigue, anemia, leucocytosis, splenomegaly, and hepatomegaly.3,13 Osteoarticular involvement is quite characteristic, and it may involve large joints such as iliosacral, ankles, shoulders and knee joints. As reported in this case, patients may demonstrate a bent-over posture because polyarthritis may make walking painful.3

Acne fulminans is easily identified because of its systemic features, although we also have to consider two important differential diagnosis: acne conglobata and rosacea fulminans. Acne conglobata usually is found in similar locations, occurring on most of the trunk and upper limbs, but rarely affecting the face. However, it develops in older age, has a more chronic course without an explosive onset, presents inflammatory cystic lesions and multiple comedones, and is not accompanied by any systemic symptoms.1-3,13 On the other hand, rosacea fulminans is also characterized by a sudden onset, but it affects more often postadolescent women, usually after a period of stress and without a preceding history of acne. There are no systemic symptoms, the lesions are localized to central areas of the face, and comedones are rare.1 In table 1, we summarized some characteristics of these diseases that are important to establish the differential diagnosis.1

The treatment of acne fulminans is difficult and there are many reports of different treatments. It is important to realize that acne fulminans does not respond to the conventional treatment for severe acne, and the use of antibiotics is ineffective. Due the severe systemic symptoms, bed rest and hospitalization may be required.1-3,13 In addition to general supportive care, systemic corticosteroids are the mainstay of the therapy. Seukeran and Cunliffe14 concluded that the preferable treatment for acne fulminans is oral prednisolone 0,5-1 mg/kg daily for 4-6 weeks with oral isotretinoin being added to the regimen in the fourth week, initially at 0.5 mg/kg daily and increasing gradually. According to them, this protocol led to faster control of systemic features as well as clearance of acne when compared with other protocols.

However, we have to consider that the use of isotretinoin is forbidden in some countries (in Japan, for example), and that some authors reported the risk of this drug precipitating acne fulminans. 1,8 In this context, other options such as dapsone (diaminodiphenylsulfone) and infliximab may be important. The efficacy of dapsone to treat acne fulminans is well established in some reports. The initial dose of dapsone is 50 mg daily, which can be increased to 100 or 150 mg daily.1-3,8,15

Received on 16.05.2011.

Approved by the Advisory Board and accepted for publication on 20.08.2011.

Conflict of interest: None

Financial funding: None

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  • 9. Traupe H, von Mühlendahl KE, Brämswig J, Happle R. Acne of the fulminans type following testosterone therapy in three excessively tall boys. Arch Dermatol. 1988;124:414-7.
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  • 11. Kellett JK, Beck MH, Chalmers RJG: Er ythema nodosum and circulating immune complexes in acne fulminans after treatment with isotretinoin. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1985;290:820.
  • 12. Darley CR, Currey HL, Baker H. Acne fulminans with ar thritis in identical twins treated with isotretinoin. J R Soc Med. 1984;77:328-30.
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  • 14. Seukeran DC, Cunliffe WJ. The treatment of acne fulminans: a review of 25 cases. Br J Dermatol. 1999;141:307-9.
  • 15. Tan BB, Lear JT, Smith AG. Acne fulminans and erythema nodosum during isotretinoin therapy responding to dapsone. Clin Exp Dermatol. 1997;22:26-7.

  • Mailing address:
    Sebastião Honório Bona
    Universidade Federal do Piauí
    Centro deCiências da Saúde
    Av. Frei Serafim, 250 - Centro
    64001-020 Teresina, PI
    E-mail:
  • *
    Study carried out at the Dermatologic Clinic of Getulio Vargas Hospital (Hospital Getúlio Vargas - HGV) and Federal University of Piaui (Universidade Federal do Piauí - UFPI) - Teresina (PI), Brazil.

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    10 Aug 2012
  • Date of issue
    Aug 2012

History

  • Received
    16 May 2011
  • Accepted
    20 Aug 2011
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