More than 200 patients with prurigo pigmentosa, a disease described first by Nagashima in 1971, have been reported on in Japan, but only 28 non-Japanese patients have come to notice as of today. In order to establish reliable, repeatable criteria for diagnosis of the disease, we studied 25 patients with prurigo pigmentosa and reviewed the literature pertaining to it as recorded in another 182 patients.
Clinically, prurigo pigmentosa presents itself as pruritic urticarial papules, papulovesicles, and vesicles arranged in reticular pattern and distributed symmetrically on the back, neck, and chest. Lesions involute in a matter of days, leaving behind netlike pigmentation. Exacerbations and recurrences are the rule. Histopathologically, prurigo pigmentosa begins with a superficial perivascular infiltrate of neutrophils. Shortly thereafter, neutrophils are scattered in dermal papillae and then sweep rapidly through an epidermis in which spongiosis, ballooning, and necrotic keratocytes are accompaniments. En route, abscesses may form in the surface epithelium. Very soon, eosinophils and lymphocytes come to predominate over neutrophils in a dermal infiltrate that assumes a patchy lichenoid pattern. Intraepidermal vesiculation follows on spongiosis and ballooning and, sometimes, subepidermal vesiculation on vacuolar alteration at the dermo-epidermal junction. As the epidermis becomes hyperplastic, parakeratotic, and slightly hyperpigmented, melanophages begin to appear in the dermis. Studies by immunofluorescence are negative invariably. Dapsone or minocyclin are effective treatments; both of those agents inhibit migration and/or function of neutrophils. The cause and pathogenesis have yet to be determined. Prurigo pigmentosa is unique among inflammatory diseases of the skin and the singularity of it is manifest both clinically and histopathologically.