Chronic prurigo L28.1

Authors: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer, Timon Renggli

Co-Autor: Hadrian Tran

All authors of this article

Last updated on: 28.04.2024

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Chronic Prurigo; Chronic Prurigo of Nodular Type; Eccema verrucosum callosum; Eccema verrucosum callosum nodulare; lichen corneus disseminatus; lichen obtusus corneus; Lighting specifications circonscrits nodulaires chroniques; maculopapulosis lichenificatio; neurodermatitis nodosa; nodular lichenification; nodular prurigo; nodular prurigo (Hyde's prurigo); obtuse papulae; Picker`s nodule; Prurigo nodular; tuberosis cutis pruriginosa; Urticaria perstans chronica papulosa; Urticaria perstans verrucosa

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The disease was first described by Haraway in the USA in 1880. Subsequently, in France, Lailler, Brocq, de Beurmann, Hallopeau described the disease casuistically. Brocq describes it under the title Lichen corneus obtusus. In the German literature Fabry, Kreibich Hübner and Brill are listed among the authors. Hyde & Montgomery proposed the name prurigo nodularis in 1909, which later became accepted.

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Very rare, chronic, polyetiologic systemic disease characterized by numerous, large, intensely pruritic (or also painful) plaques and nodules, which is regarded as the maximum form of prurigo simplex subacuta (or nodular variant of lichen simplex chronicus) (remark: many authors emphasize the etiogenetic independence of prurigo nodularis).

Characteristic for this disease is an almost unbreakable cycle of itching/pain, uncontrollable scratching. From lesional scratching effects with reactive skin changes (inflammation, acanthosis, fibrosis, increased density of substance P-positive nerves) and a again flaring itching/pain (Tsianakas A et al. 2016).

Clinically, malignant tumor diseases (e.g., lymphogranulomatosis of the skin; cutaneous T-cell lymphoma) should be excluded. Renal and hepatic insufficiency, diabetes mellitus and gluten sensitivity should be clarified (Suárez C et al. 1984).

A highly chronic course over several years (decades) is predictable and must be taken into account when planning therapy.

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A sensorimotor peripheral polyneuropathy induced by multiple factors, often subclinical, is discussed (Hughes JM et al. 2020). It has been shown that reduced intraepidermal nerve fiber density (IENFD) is present in the skin lesions of prurigo nodularis (see also small fiber neuropathy). To date, the effects and associations of gluten sensitivity on this disorder have received little attention or research.

In the pathogenesis of prurigo nodularis, a form of "neuronal sensitization" is also present, whereby the itch/pain-processing neurons are triggered and activated, thereby maintaining an "itch-scratch cycle".

An inflammatory response in the skin and neuronal plasticity also play a role. Histopathologically, there are changes in the nerve fibers in the skin as well as inflammatory cells in the dermis. The itch/pain in this disease may be triggered by release of tryptase, interleukin 31 (IL-31), prostaglandins, eosinophil cationic protein (ECP), and neuropeptides by inflammatory cells, mast cells, and nerve fibers.

Recent studies show that up to 50-fold increased production of interleukin-31 mRNA is detectable in prurigo nodes. The studies in patients with atopic dermatitis and prurigo nodularis, suggest that interleukin-31 released by activated CD4-positive T cells is a major trigger of itch/pain in these diseases. Thus, interleukin-31 is already referred to as the "itch cytokine."

IL-31 receptor A is most highly expressed in the sensory neurons of the spinal ganglia of the spinal cord. Similarly, interleukin-31 activates signal transducers of the JAK-STAT pathway (JAK1 and JAK2), which in turn can re-induce itch.

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Mainly occurring in middle-aged and older women.

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Sacral area (50%), abdomen (40%), extremity extensor sides bilaterally, soles and palms always remain free. Face is rarely affected. The mucous membranes close to the skin are never affected. Nail lesions are absent.

Clinical features
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Disseminated, mostly symmetrically arranged, calotte-like raised, 0.3- 2.0 cm large, rough, initially slightly or more reddened with prolonged persistence, red-brown to dirty gray, excruciatingly burning-itching (itching is described as burning pain ) roundish, firm papules and nodules. The itchy burning pain persists continuously or alternates periods of relative calm with periods of unbearable itching.

The papules and nodules are generally sharply defined. They maintain a defined distance from each other and do not confluent. The interlesional skin remains intact. A Köbner phenomenon cannot be observed. However, there is a certain linearity in the distribution pattern.

This results in a conspicuously ordered, topographical basic pattern, which shows the nodular or papular efflorescences in an otherwise unaltered skin. The papules/nodules are often excoriated or exulcerated by deliberately placed sharp spooning (linear scratch marks indicating uncoordinated scratching, such as in atopic dermatitis, do not exist), whereby the lesions are levered out to the deep corium with fingernails or suitable objects. This provides the patient with considerable relief. A later onset of wound pain is described as more bearable.

In older nodules, there is a tendency towards keratotic or verruciform, even bifurcated surface structures. Other signs of an underlying skin disease (e.g. indications of atopic, psoriatic or lichen planus diathesis) are absent.

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Pronounced, plump acanthosis with irregular elongation of the mostly colbulous distended rectal ridges. Marked proliferation of the adnexal epithelia. There is overall aspect of pseudoepitheliomatous hyperplasia. Vigorous orthohyperkeratosis with focal parahyperkeratosis. Widespread capillaries are evident in the stratum papillare as well as in the upper dermis. In addition, there are predominantly vascular, but also diffuse, rather sparse lymphohistiocytic infiltrates, occasionally intermixed with eosinophilic leukocytes. In erosions, plasma cells and neutrophilic leukocytes are also found. There is usually marked fibrosis of the dermis, with collagen bundles running perpendicular to the epidermis. Repeated evidence of schwannoma-like neural hyperplasias(Pautrier's neuromas).

Differential diagnosis
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Prurigo simplex subacuta (no lump formation, only nodules, identical itching)

Prurigo form of atopic eczema (detectable signs of atopic eczema)

Lichen planus verrucosus (to be verified histologically, usually lower leg; look for other lichen planus lesions)

Prurigo form of bullous pemphigoid (DIF to be clarified, flat nodule formation, possibly blistering)

Multiple eruptive keratoacanthomas (eruptive onset, itching absent, typical clinic of keratoacanthoma with central horny plug)

General therapy
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Therapeutic results of all known therapeutic measures are unsatisfactory. In almost all patients, topical cortisone preparations fail after initial slight success, and antihistamines are also ineffective.

Cooperation with a psychologist or a psychiatrist is necessary to improve the (reactively) depressive attitude of the patient. Especially in prurigo nodularis patients suffer more from anxiety, depression and have more suicidal thoughts.

A therapeutic approach with tricyclic antidepressants can be helpful in coping with the disease.

A new approach is the treatment with nemolizumab, which showed good results in a phase II trial at Münster University Hospital in 2020 as part of the drug approval process. The compound has recently been approved (Williams KA et al. 2021).

External therapy
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Short-term highly potent external glucocorticoids such as 0.1% mometasone ointment (e.g. Ecural) or 0.05% clobetasone cream (e.g. Dermoxin) under occlusion.

If without effect, multiple, potwise, intralesional application of triamcinolone (draw up 10 mg Volon A together with 1-2 ml 1% scandicaine, take your time when injecting, use a thin needle).

Sublesional application is easier but useless. In addition, there is a risk of fat tissue atrophy in women!

There have been reports of success with ablative laser systems, see below. Here, the principle of "eradication" of the lesion with subsequent scar healing is effective.

Radiation therapy
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In case of atopically superimposed clinical picture try phototherapy (UVB or UVA1), balneophototherapy, PUVA therapy, systemic or local (as balneophotochemotherapy).

Internal therapy
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Sedating antihistamines such as hydroxyzine (e.g. Atarax) with 1-3 tbl./day p.o. Dimetinden (e.g. Fenistil) 2 times/day 1 drg. p.o. or Clemastin (e.g. Tavegil) 2 times/day 1tbl. p.o. are therapeutics of first choice.

In case of therapy resistance: therapy with methotrexate - 15-20mg/week s.c. ( off-label use).

Alternative: Ciclosporin A (3.0-5.0 mg/kg bw/day).

Alternative: Trial of thalidomide 200 mg/day ( off-label use).

Alternative: Further therapeutic options are amitriptyline or gabapentin (= anticonvulsant; e.g. Gabapentin STADA) initially 1 time/day 300 mg, increase to 3 times/day 300 mg p.o.; further dose increase if necessary, with intact renal function (control of renal parameters!), by 300 mg/day each time up to a maximum dose of 3600 mg/day in 3 ED.

Alternative: pregabalin (Lyrica®) and the neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist aprepitant.

Alternative: Dupilumab; in case of absolute resistance to therapy, a curative trial with Dupilumab is warranted. Very good success has been described with this therapy (Calugareanu A et al. 2019). (According to our own findings, this therapeutic approach is superior to any previously applied therapeutic measure!)

Experimental: Nemolizumab: In clinical trials is the interleukin31 receptor blocker nemolizumab, a first-in-class humanized monoclonal antibody, with which good clinical results have been achieved. Nemolizumab targets the IL-31 receptor alpha, which blocks IL-31 signaling (Ständer S et al 2020) .

Experimental: Tofacitinib: a clinical trial is available for the Janus kinase inhib itor (JAK inhibitor) tofacitinib (Molloy OE et al 2020). Tofacitinib has an immunomodulatory/immunosuppressive effect and was primarily developed for the treatment of moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis.

Operative therapie
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Cryosurgery (2-fold cryocycle in open spray procedure), electrocoagulation or laser therapy( dye laser).

Note: Surgical measures lead tolocal destruction with consecutive scarring (including destruction of dermal nerve structures). Such eradications remain (in a systemic disease) always only localized measures.

In this respect, reports on a general healing of prurigo nodularis after surgical measures are to be evaluated with scepticism!

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Highly chronic course characterized by considerable resistance to therapy. Spontaneous healing is very rare. The single-cell florescence heals with shallow scarring.

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Although the clinical picture of the (very rare) nodular Prurigo can be well differentiated from the nodular Prurigo simplex subacuta, this differentiation is often not made in international literature. However, our own experience confirms the entity of the clinical picture in several cases.

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Last updated on: 28.04.2024