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Diffuse Bullous Eruptions in an Elderly Woman: Late-Onset Bullous Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Prajwal Boddu, Mojtaba Nadiri, Owais Malik
Case Reports in Dermatology 2016, 8 (3): 278-282
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Vesiculobullous eruptions in the elderly represent a diverse range of varying pathophysiologies and can present a significant clinical dilemma to the diagnostician. Diagnosis requires a careful review of clinical history, attention to detail on physical and histomorphological examination, and appropriate immunofluorescence testing. We describe the case of a 73-year-old female who presented to our hospital with a painful blistering skin rash developed over 2 days. Examination of the skin was remarkable for numerous flaccid hemorrhagic bullae on a normal-appearing nonerythematous skin involving both the upper and lower extremities. Histopathology of the biopsy lesion showed interface change at the epidermo-dermal region with subepidermal blister formation, mild dermal fibrosis, and sparse interstitial neutrophilic infiltrate. Immunohistological analysis was significant for positive IgG basement membrane zone antibodies with a dermal pattern of localization on direct immunofluorescence and positive IgG antinuclear antibodies on indirect immunofluorescence. Evidence of antibodies to type VII collagen suggested the diagnosis of epidermolysis bullosa acquisita versus bullous systemic lupus erythematosus (BSLE). A diagnosis of BSLE was made based on positive American College of Rheumatology criteria, acquired vesiculo-bullous eruptions with compatible histopathological and immunofluorescence findings. This case illustrates one of many difficulties a physician encounters while arriving at a diagnosis from a myriad of immunobullous dermatoses. Also, it is important for internists and dermatologists alike to be aware of and differentiate this uncommon and nonspecific cutaneous SLE manifestation from a myriad of disorders presenting with vesiculobullous skin eruptions in the elderly.

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