Symptoms of notalgia paresthetica may be explained by increased dermal innervation

D R Springall, S S Karanth, N Kirkham, C R Darley, J M Polak
Journal of Investigative Dermatology 1991, 97 (3): 555-61
Notalgia paresthetica is a sensory neuropathy characterized by infrascapular pruritus, burning pain, hyperalgesia, or tenderness. To assess whether the symptoms may be caused by alterations in the cutaneous innervation, skin from the affected area of patients (n = 5) was compared with controls (n = 10) comprising the contralateral unaffected area from the same patients and site-matched biopsies of normals, using immunohistochemistry. Frozen sections were immunostained with antisera to the neuropeptides substance P, calcitonin gene-related peptide, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, and neuropeptide with tyrosine, and to the general neural marker PGP 9.5 and the glial marker S-100 to show the overall innervation and glial cells, respectively. No discernible change in the distribution of neuropeptide-immunoreactive axons was found, but all of the specimens from the affected areas had a significant increase in the number of intradermal PGP 9.5-immunoreactive nerve fibers compared with unaffected areas from the same patients and normal controls. Epidermal dendritic cells immunoreactive for S-100, possibly Langerhans cells, were substantially increased. It is concluded that there is an increase in the sensory epidermal innervation in the affected skin areas in notalgia paresthetica, which could contribute to the symptoms, and that neural immunohistochemistry of skin biopsies could be helpful in the diagnosis of the disease.

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