Schamberg’s disease is a peculiar disorder causing discoloration of the skin of the legs. It is believed to be caused due to leaky blood vessels on the superficial layer of the skin. Discoloration starts with the legs and it may spread to other body parts as well. It was Jay Frank Schamberg who first described about this disease and hence the name.
Progressive pigmentary dermatosis is another name for Schamberg’s disease since the pigments of the skin gets affected and the disease progresses slowly. When compared with women, men are largely affected with this disease. Schamberg has observed this problem in a boy wherein the blood capillaries beneath the upper layers of the skin in his legs, are found to be leaking causing discoloration due to deposits of haemosiderin. This skin problem may cause raised papules or plaque like patches on legs of affected people. In rare cases it can cause itching. Discoloration does not occur overnight and it spreads slowly but is a chronic (long-term) problem.
Schamberg’s Disease Causes :
Blood vessels found below the upper layer of the skin leaks out blood allowing it to slip through the skin. This causes skin discoloration leading to pinkish orange patch on the skin due to deposits of red blood cells and presence of iron molecules in it.
Some theories suggest that Schamberg’s disease is caused due to viral infection and allergic response of the skin. Intake of certain medications like aspirin or thiamine can cause skin discoloration. Side effects of amlodipine and benzafibrate can also cause skin problem. In some people, skin discoloration runs in families involving genetic factor.
Raised lesions or papules are formed in the skin anywhere but predominantly formed on legs. For some people lesions may spread to other body parts like stomach, neck and even the hands. Lesions often occur in groups. Black colored spots can occur on old lesions.
Another distinctive feature of Schamberg’s disease is skin discoloration on the affected part. Dark brown patches are seen in the legs and below the knee region. Skin gets discolored due to deposits of iron in red blood cells. Pattern of these lesions can be irregular or linear patches.
Itching may or may not be accompanied with lesions. In rare cases pain is felt on the lower legs. As said already, skin patches develop slowly as a process and it takes long term for the symptoms to disappear. For some people the above symptoms may persist for months or even years.
Physical examination of the skin can help in identifying Schamberg’s disease by the doctor. Your doctor may order for blood count to determine the clotting time and platelets count. Skin biopsy (removing small tissue sample from the affected skin) is done for testing in the laboratory for presence of any infectious organisms.
Schamberg’s Disease Treatment :
- Schamberg’s disease is a chronic problem of skin discoloration and hence there is no cure. Symptoms of severe itching and lesions can be managed with cortisone ointments or any other antihistamine pills.
- Taking UV therapy is successful in controlling the symptoms of lesions and skin discoloration.
- For some people, your doctor may prescribe aminaphtone which is given for treating venous problems in the legs. Due to compression of veins, blood capillaries are pressed causing blood leakage and skin discoloration.
- In case of bacterial/viral infection, suitable antibiotic/anti-viral medications are given.
- In rare cases fluorescent light therapy or laser therapy is given for removing the stains and discoloration of skin for cosmetic purpose.
- For people with venous problem, wearing supportive stockings can help in managing the symptoms.
- For auto-immune related issues, your doctor may prescribe immunosuppressant drugs.
- Combination of one or more therapy can bring some relief from symptoms, but there is no concrete treatment for Schamberg’s disease.
Schamberg’s disease can only be controlled and not prevented. It takes long term (months or even years) for the symptom to respond in many cases. For some people there are recurrent flaring of symptoms and remissions.