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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 45-46  

Panniculitis as the first sign of systemic lupus erythematosus

1 Internist, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Akhavan Center, Tehran, Iran
2 Associate Professor of Shahed University, Mustafa Khomeini Hospital, Tehran, Iran

Date of Web Publication21-Apr-2011

Correspondence Address:
Suzan Sanavi
Akhavan Center, Valiye-Asr Ave, 1113813111, Tehran
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2229-5178.79859

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How to cite this article:
Sanavi S, Afshar R. Panniculitis as the first sign of systemic lupus erythematosus. Indian Dermatol Online J 2011;2:45-6

How to cite this URL:
Sanavi S, Afshar R. Panniculitis as the first sign of systemic lupus erythematosus. Indian Dermatol Online J [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 Jan 25];2:45-6. Available from: https://www.idoj.in/text.asp?2011/2/1/45/79859


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect every organ system of the body. SLE is protean in its manifestations and the skin is one of the target organs most variably affected by the disease, which can yield valuable diagnostic and prognostic information. [1] We describe an interesting case in who panniculitis proved to be the first sign of the SLE. A 30-year-old man presented to the emergency department with a 2-day history of severe pain and swelling of his right thigh without systemic symptoms [Figure 1]. His past medical history, physical examination, and laboratory findings [Figure 2] and [Figure 3] were unremarkable except marked erythema and a tender, firm swelling overlying the upper part of right thigh and on the skin over the iliac crest. Initially, deep vein thrombosis was suspected however, Doppler sonography showed nonoccluded femoral vein and finally an inflammatory process was contemplated. With suspicion of bone or skin infection, antibiotics were administered empirically, however, bone scan ruled out osteomyelitis. Skin biopsy of involved area revealed panniculitis. Initial treatment, which was targeted to alleviate symptoms, consisted of elevation of the affected site and the use of anti-inflammatory agents. The patient improved with steroid therapy. At a follow-up visit 1 year later, he had a positive anti-dsDNA titer, which could be interpreted as SLE. Panniculitis is inflammation of subcutaneous adipose tissue and may be a sign of systemic disease. [2] Lupus panniculitis is an unusual variant of lupus erythematosus occurring in 2%-5% of patients. Conversely, 10%-15% of the patients with lupus panniculitis develop SLE. Most of the patients are adults with the age range of 20-60 years. Persistent, firm, well-defined nodules and plaques on face, scalp, breast, arms, thighs, and buttocks characterize this entity which may ulcerate and heal with scarring. [3],[4] Lupus panniculitis is often difficult to diagnose as other form of panniculitis may present similarly. The knowledge of clinical features and histopathology of disease is important because lupus panniculitis may precede SLE (nearly in 50% of cases) by some years. [5]
Figure 1: Showing erythematous swelling over the right iliac crest and upper part of right thigh

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Figure 2: Slide (low resolution). Fatty tissue showing fibrin within fibrous septa and containing an infiltrate of mixed inflammatory cells

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Figure 3: Slide (high resolution). Infiltrate of lymphocytes and other inflammatory cells surrounding individual adipocytes

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   References Top

1.Rahman A, Isenberg DA. Systemic lupus erythematosus. N Engl J Med 2008;358:929-39.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Marque M, Guillot B, Bessis D. Lipoatrophic connective tissue panniculitis. Pediatr Dermatol 2010;27:53-7.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Hansen CB, Callen JP. Connective tissue panniculitis: Lupus panniculitis, dermatomyositis, morphea/scleroderma. Dermatol Ther 2010;23:341-9.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Goodfield MJ, Jones SK, Veale DJ. The Connective Tissue Diseases. In: Burns T, Breathnach S, Cox N, Griffiths C, editors. Rook's Textbook of Dermatology. 7 th ed. Italy: Blackwell Science Ltd; 2004. p. 56.1-147.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Costner MI, Sontheimer RD. Lupus Erythematosus. In: Freedberg IM, Eisen AZ, Wolff K, Austen KF, Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, et al. editors. Fitzpatrick's dermatology in general medicine. 6th ed. New York: Mcgraw-hill medical publishing division; 2003. p. 1677-93.  Back to cited text no. 5


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]


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