Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome: a case Incontinentia pigmenti (IP, Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome) is a very rare…

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  • Postpy Dermatologii i Alergologii XXIX; 2012/5390

    AAddddrreessss ffoorr ccoorrrreessppoonnddeennccee:: Anna Rosiska-Wickowicz MD, PhD, Department of Dermatology, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, 49 Przybyszewskiego St, 60-355 Poznan, phone: +48 604 906 464, e-mail:

    Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome: a case report

    Anna Rosiska-Wickowicz, Magdalena Czarnecka-Operacz

    Department of Dermatology, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, PolandHead: Prof. Wojciech Silny MD, PhD

    Postep Derm Alergol 2012; XXIX, 5: 390-394

    DOI: 10.5114/pdia.2012.31494

    Case report

    AbstractIncontinentia pigmenti (IP, Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome) is a very rare genodermatosis characterized by typical skinlesions accompanied by dental, central nervous system, bone and ocular abnormalities. Incontinentia pigmenti isusually observed among women, as this X-linked dominantly inherited disorder is lethal in males. The hallmark fea-ture of IP is cutaneous eruption along the lines of Blaschko, usually accompanied by neurological disorders. Apartfrom clinical features of the disease, skin biopsy is the best diagnostic tool to confirm the diagnosis. We presenta case of a newborn with typical vesicular and then verrucous lesions affecting the lower legs.

    KKeeyy wwoorrddss:: incontinentia pigmenti, Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome.


    Incontinentia pigmenti (IP, Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome)is a very rare X-linked dominantly inherited genoder-matosis predominant among females as it is usually lethalin males [1-6]. There are however single reports of malepatients with IP and XXY karyotype [7, 8]. Incontinentiapigmenti was first described by Garrod in 1906 [9], andfurther defined by Bardach [10], Bloch in 1926 [11],Sulzberger in 1928 [12] and Siemens in 1929 [13], howev-er only the names of Bloch and Sulzberger feature in theeponym. Incontinentia pigmenti is a multisystem, ecto-dermal disorder characterized by skin lesions (100%)accompanied by dental (90%), central nervous system(CNS) (40%), bone (40%) and ocular (35%) abnormalities.In 1993, Landy and Donnai [4], after they had evaluateda group of over 100 pa tients with IP, proposed the diagnos-tic criteria for this neurodermatosis, as shown in Table 1.

    Dermatologic manifestations are among the mostimportant signs of IP as skin lesions observed in almostall individuals with IP are relatively easy to diagnose [1-4].Fortunately, skin lesions are the least damaging aspect ofthe disease and actually do not require any treatment asspontaneous resolution of lesions is one of the featuresof the disease. The hallmark feature of IP is cutaneouseruption along the lines of Blaschko that evolves in fourdistinct stages: 1st stage: inflammatory, erythematous, vesiculobullous

    lesions, usually configured in a linear pattern (birth to1-2 weeks),

    2nd stage: papules, verrucous lesions with hyperkerato-sis (2-6 weeks),

    3rd stage: hyperpigmentation of the skin (3-6 months), 4th stage: hypopigmentation and atrophy of the skin

    (2-3 decade). One of the late manifestations of IP are subungual

    tumors of IP (STIPs), which usually appear after puberty,between 15 and 40 years of life [14, 15]. Subungual tumorsof IPs are usually observed on fingers rather than on toes,and clinically resemble plain warts, epidermoid cysts, fibro-mas, keratoacanthoma (KA) and squamous cell carcino-ma (SCC) [16]. Subungual tumors of IPs tend to destroythe underlying bone of the distal phalanx, due to pres-sure necrosis. Subungual tumors of IPs may be associat-ed with a very intense pain due to fast growth. Althoughthe histological picture of STIPs may cause misdiagnosisas it resembles KA or SCC, radiographic appearance withbone destruction in the distal phalanx without accom-panying sclerosis or periosteal reaction may help to makethe right diagnosis [16].

    Case report

    We present a full-term infant with cutaneous mani-festation of IP. The girl was born by uncomplicated deliv-ery as the first child of unrelated parents in the 40th weekof pregnancy (Hbd 40+6), Apgar 9 points and signs ofintrauterine hypotrophy (body mass at birth 2360 g). Onthe third day of life, she developed linear rash on the skin

  • Postpy Dermatologii i Alergologii XXIX; 2012/5 391

    of the medial and lateral side of the left lower limb. Exam-ination revealed numerous papules and discrete vesicleson an erythematous background. Within few days, lesionsspread on the skin of the right lower limb and the left arm.A significant asymmetry in the distribution of lesions wasobserved, since mainly the left side of the body wasinvolved, with solitary lesions affecting the left forearmand numerous lesions on the left thigh and lower leg andthe Achilles tendon (Figures 1, 2). On the skin of medialsites of both thighs, linear lesions were symmetric and

    arranged along the lines of Blaschko. The examination ofhair and nails did not reveal any abnormalities.

    DDiiaaggnnoossttiicc aapppprrooaacchh

    A standard diagnostic approach in IP includes a skinbiopsy with assessment of the nervous system and theorgan of vision [1-4, 7, 8, 17, 18]. Neurologic examinationrevealed slightly increased muscle tone with no otheranomalies. A cranial ultrasound did not reveal any abnor-malities of the brain structures. On ophthalmologicalexamination, the anterior chamber of the eye was nor-mal, while scarce extravasations were observed on thefundus. The X-ray of the skeletal system did not revealany abnormalities. C-reactive protein (20.47 mg/l) andleukocytes in the peripheral blood were elevated

    TTaabbllee 11.. Diagnostic criteria for incontinentia pigmenti

    FFaammiillyy hhiissttoorryy MMaajjoorr ccrriitteerriiaa MMiinnoorr ccrriitteerriiaa

    No evidence of IP in a first degree female relative* Typical neonatal rash: Erythema Vesicles Typical hyperpigmentation Linear, atrophic, hairless lesions

    Mainly trunk following the Blaschkos lines Dental anomalies, Fading in adolescence (hypopigmentation) alopecia, abnormal Eosinophilia nails, retinal disease

    Evidence of IP in a first degree female relative** Suggestive history or evidence of typical rash Skin manifestations of IP

    Hyperpigmentation Scarring

    Hair abnormalities Hairless streaks Alopecia at vertex Woolly hair

    Dental anomalies Retinal disease Multiple male miscarriages

    *At least one major criterion is necessary for diagnosis in cases with no apparent family history; minor criteria support the diagnosis, **presence of any oneor more of the major criteria strongly suggests a diagnosis of incontinentia pigmenti in cases with definitive family history

    FFiigguurree 22.. Erythematous lesions, papules and vesiclesarranged along the lines of Blaschko on the skin of the lower limbs

    FFiigguurree 11.. Erythematous lesions and papules on erythema-tous background arranged along the lines of Blaschko onthe skin of the lower limbs

    Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome: a case report

  • Postpy Dermatologii i Alergologii XXIX; 2012/5392

    (14.9-29.6 K/l) as signs of pneumonia were observed inthe first days of life. Additionally, glucose blood levelsshowed hypoglycemia (25-60 mg/dl). Intrauterine bloodsmear did not reveal eosinophilia, which is a significantsign in IP.

    HHiissttoollooggiiccaall eexxaammiinnaattiioonn ooff tthhee sskkiinn bbiiooppssyy

    The skin biopsy was performed by a dermatologist onthe 20th day of life. Histological examination revealed char-acteristic features of the first, vesicular stage of IP whichare as follows: epidermis with spongiosis, orthokeratosis,hypergranulosis and inflammatory infiltration with leuko-cytes, histiocytes and eosinophils (Figure 3).

    The skin biopsy in the vesiculobullous stage usuallydemonstrates inflammatory dermatitis, with subcornealvesicles filled with numerous eosinophils, while the wartystage merely reveals hyperkeratosis and chronic inflam-mation of the dermis. Finally, the pigmentary stage demon-strates melanin, which is found in the dermis or engulfedby dermal macrophages. The study of Fraitag et al. [19]revealed that most of the 26 biopsies in the late stage (IV)of IP showed a slight atrophy and some scattered apop-totic cells in the epidermis, epidermal hypopigmentationand a reduced melanocyte number, while the dermisappeared thickened and homogeneous and revealeda complete absence of hair follicles (23/26) and sweatglands (22/26). Furthermore, in the investigated biopsiesthere was no melanin incontinence or inflammatory cells,and the elastic network was normal. Recently, eotaxin an eosinophil-selective chemokine has been identifiedin the epidermis of skin lesions of patients with IP [20].

    DDiiffffeerreennttiiaall ddiiaaggnnoossiiss

    In the blistering stage, other blistering skin conditionsshould be excluded, such as common infections caused by

    Herpes simples virus (HSV) or Staphylococcus aureus (Bul-lous impetigo BI). Skin lesions caused by HSV are char-acterized by closely grouped vesicles, which rupture easilyleaving erosions, often covered with honey-like crusts dueto the secondary bacterial infection. Herpes simples virusinfection is usually not accompanied by systemic symp-toms or any organ abnormalities. Bullous impetigo, and itsgeneralized form staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome(SSSS) is a serious skin infection, due to action of exfo-liative toxins produced by S. aureus which leads to the for-mation of pus-filled blisters. Lesions in BI are usually dif-fuse and accompanied by systemic symptoms. Nikolskyssign may be observed and a very intense systemic treat-ment is necessary (systemic antibiotics i.v.). In the wartystage, IP may be confused with epidermal birthmarks (nevi)or warts. Epidermal birthmarks are not preceded by theonset of vesicles. In the pigmentary stage, sites of hyper-pigmentation are uniquely arranged in whorls, which iswhy IP is unlikely to be confused with other causes of hyper-pigmentation/discoloration of the skin [1-4].


    Incontinentia pigmenti is a familial, X-linked domi-nantly inherited, neurocutaneous syndrome. The perina-tal incidence of IP is estimated at a level of 1 to 50 000births, but it is probably higher. The disease is difficult todiagnose by non-dermatologists as it is sometimes con-fused with usually infectious conditions, such as HSV, BIor erythema toxicum [1, 17, 21]. The underlying defect inIP is a mutation in the essential modulator gene (NEMO),which results in the loss of activity of the regulatory com-ponent of the IB kinase (IKK) complex encoded by theNEMO/IKK gene. Deletion of exons 4 - 10 is observed in80% of patients with IP [8, 17, 21]. Thus, nonfunctional IKKabolishes activity of nuclear factor- B (NFB), preventingthe transcription of various target genes. NEMO seemsto be involved in epidermal development and differenti-ation. This is why dysregulation of NFB is suspected toplay an important role in the pathogenesis of skin dis-eases, such as psoriasis, sunburn, Lyme disease, allergiccontact dermatitis, autoimmune diseases and skin can-cers [21].

    Various phenotypes of patients with IP offer a greatopportunity for expanding the current knowledge of thefunction of this transcription factor. It has been shownexperimentally that the NFB pathway is important inlimb morphogenesis as well as odontogenesis and retino-genesis. This is why, apart from characteristic skin lesions,arranged in a linear pattern along the lines of Blaschkoand evolving through 4 distinct stages, other systems areusually involved [1-4, 17, 18, 22-24]. Systems that may beinvolved in IP include as follows: the teeth delayed eruption, microdontia, hypodontia,


    FFiigguurree 33.. Vesicular stage of IP: subcorneal vesicle, epider-mis with spongiosis, orthokeratosis, hypergranulosis andinflammatory infiltration of epidermis with leukocytes, his-tiocytes and eosinophils

    Anna Rosiska-Wickowicz, Magdalena Czarnecka-Operacz

  • Postpy Dermatologii i Alergologii XXIX; 2012/5 393

    Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome: a case report

    CNS seizures, spasticity, mental deficiency, micro-cephaly,

    the eyes uveitis, keratitis, cataract, retinal dysplasia,strabismus, retinal detachment, retrolental dysplasia,blue sclerae, pigment retinopathy,

    the musculoskeletal system hemiatrophy, extra rib,hemivertebrae, kyphoscoliosis, syndactyly, short armsand legs,

    the hair alopecia.The high rate of neurological disturbances and blind-

    ness in the population of neonates with IP remains themost important challenge for clinicians. For that reason,newborns with the suspicion of IP should be carefullydiagnosed by the ophthalmologist and neurologist asthese disorders decrease the quality of life significantly.The variety of neurological symptoms is very wide, includ-ing recurrent strokes and acute disseminated encephalo -myelitis [22-25]. Current results of neuroradiologic andhistopathologic observations indicate that vascular anom-alies in CNS might be responsible for neurologic compli-cations in IP [23, 26, 27].

    Chromosomal instability seen in IP patients mayincrease the risk of malignancy in young children [28]. Dueto mutation in the NEMO gene, which protects againstTNF--induced apoptosis, IP is considered as a pre-apop-totic state leading to male lethality and cell destructionin females. This may account for the dyskeratosisobserved in the histological examination of verrucouslesions in the course of IP. Moreover, the late manifesta-tion of IP, STIP, may clinically resemble keratoacanthoma,which is a pre-malignant condition, or even SCC [14-16].In adolescents and young adults with IP, recurrent casesof SCC have also been described [29, 30].

    TTrreeaattmmeenntt ooppttiioonnss

    There is no specific treatment. Most of the therapeu-tic methods are claimed to be ineffective as they do nothasten the resolution of any of phases in the course of IP.However, vesicubullous lesions which appear due toinflammatory infiltration of the epidermis (mainly witheosinophils) are expected to respond to topical treatmentwith corticosteroids. It was proved that topical steroidsreduced the expression of eotaxin in the epidermis ofpatients with IP [20, 31]. Topical use of steroids and anti-septic agents (diflucortolone valerate, chlorquinaldol 1%)was observed to contribute to resolution of vesicularlesions [20, 31]. Furthermore, tacrolimus (0.1% ointment),a topical calcineurin inhibitor, has been reported recent-ly to be an effective agent in the treatment of IP [32, 33].According to Jessup et al., tacrolimus halted the progres-sion of the disease through its subsequent disfiguringstages [32]. Even though systemic and topical antibioticsmay show anti-inflammatory effects on the level of theskin, they are not effective in the course of IP, except forlesions with secondary bacterial infection [1, 8]. In patients

    with solitary STIP, the first-line treatment is surgical exci-sion, though multiple new lesions appear in other loca-tions. Moreover, the treatment with 5-fluorouracil injec-tions with a good clinical outcome has also been reported...


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