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What Is Pemphigus Vegetans?

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  • Written By: Karize Uy
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Pemphigus vegetans is a severe form of another skin disorder called pemphigus vulgaris. A person suffering from this disease typically forms a thickened layer of discolored skin, or what dermatologists would call “vegetation,” in specific areas of the body. Eventually, the growth would become bigger and may result in a tumor-like appearance. Pemphigus vegetan is an autosomal dominant condition, which means an affected parent usually transfers the disease to the offspring. All pemphigus variants are caused by a malfunctioning immune system that assumes and attacks the skin as a foreign body.

In some cases, pemphigus vegetans may also affect the tongue and the inside of the cheeks, causing thickened skin to form. Sometimes, the vulva in the female genital region may also be affected. Patients may start suffering from the skin disorder at a young age, and in the initial stage, may experience having numerous blisters that “pop” constantly. The skin under the popped blister does not heal properly, but instead develops discolored wart-like lesions that appear like small and grainy bubbles.

Generally, dermatologists have observed two types of pemphigus vegetans. The Neumann type is the more common variant that exhibit the aforementioned signs. The Hallopeau variant is less common, but also less aggressive. Unlike the Neumann type, the Hallopeau is characterized by numerous pus formations instead of blisters. The skin growth is also milder, but develops similarly like hyperkeratosis, or over-production of keratin on the skin.

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It has been observed that although pemphigus vegetans is a genetic disorder, it can also be triggered by exposure to certain chemicals or medication. Some patients were observed to have experienced the skin disorder after taking captopril and enalapril, both of which are used to treat hypertension. Heroin, particularly when inhaled through the nose, is said to also instigate the skin disorder. What makes pemphigus vegetans worse is the overgrowth of bacteria on the affected area.

Dermatologists recommend patients treat pemphigus vegetans with topical or injected medication. A commonly prescribed medication is corticosteroids, which help correct the immune system and reduce the inflammation on the skin. For topical corticosteroids, a milder form is recommended, especially when applied on the face and genital area. A stronger dose can be prescribed when the medication is injected.

Corticosteroids can also be accompanied by antibiotics that help eradicate the growth of bacteria on the skin. Antifungal creams can be prescribed when dermatologists see a fungal growth. For severe cases, surgery is needed to remove the extensive skin growth and to help the skin absorb the topical medication more effectively.

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