Small fiber neuropathy and intractable scalp pruritus in dermatomyositis patients

Pablo Vitoriano Cirino, Maria Hordinsky, Brian McAdams, Ricardo Romiti

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Background: Scalp pruritus is a common symptom in Dermatomyositis (DM) patients. There are indications that small nerve fibers neuropathy could be involved in this symptom, however the etiology of scalp pruritus is not fully understood. Objectives: To assess epidermal nerve fiber (ENF) density of dermatomyositis patients with scalp pruritus by biopsy by confocal microscopy and immunohistochemistry with subsequent imaging analysis. Methods: DM patients with severe scalp pruritus from the dermatology outpatient clinic were compared to healthy volunteers. Two 4-mm scalp skin biopsies were obtained above the right ear in the parietal region and below the occipital protuberance in the occipital region. Biopsy specimens were incubated with primary antibodies to protein gene product (PGP 9.5), calcitonin gene–related peptide (CGRP), substance P (SP) were used to visualize nerve fibers (ENF) and collagen IV was used to label the epidermal basement membrane. The number of ENFs per millimeter was counted and recorded as the mean of ± SD of counts in 16 images at two micrometer increments/sections, two from each of the samples. ENF densities were compared between groups and a multiple linear regression model was applied to associated factors with ENF density. Results: Fifteen DM patients with severe scalp pruritus and 12 healthy volunteers were included in the study. The mean number of ENF/mm in occipital region of DM group was 16.0 ± 13.9 while the control group in the same region was 99.8 ± 33.1. In parietal region the number of ENF/mm of DM group was 18.0 ± 20.7 while in control group was 50.4 ± 17.4 (p < 0.001). Conclusion: DM patients with pruritus could have some impairment of small nerve fiber density that could explain their recalcitrant scalp pruritus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere173
JournalSkin Health and Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023

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© 2022 The Authors. Skin Health and Disease published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Association of Dermatologists.


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