Lupus erythematosus tumidus: a series of 26 cases

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To study 26 cases of lupus erythematosus tumidus (LET), a subset of chronic cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CCLE), referred to in the literature as a rare entity.

Patients and methods

A retrospective study was conducted of 26 patients diagnosed with LET between 1996 and 2002. The clinical characteristics, histopathologic and laboratory findings, response to treatment, association with other subsets of lupus, course, and diagnostic criteria were analyzed.


The incidence by sex was similar. The mean age of presentation was 49.19 years. The clinical presentation usually involved erythematous, edematous plaques located on the face, chest, back, or extremities, related to sun exposure. A dermal lymphocytic infiltrate with a perivascular disposition and differing degrees of mucin deposition was observed in all cases. Minimal epidermal changes were present in 18 cases, and 11 of these also showed minimal dermal–epidermal changes. Only one case showed dermal–epidermal changes without any epidermal alteration. Direct immunofluorescence test was performed in 15 patients, and 11 were negative. All cases showed a benign course without systemic manifestations. The response to topical steroids or antimalarial treatment was excellent, but a seasonal recurrence was usually observed.


No defined criteria for LET are universally accepted. The main controversies are the acceptance of LET as a separate subset of CCLE, and the histopathologic diagnostic features, mainly the presence or absence of epidermal and dermal–epidermal changes in these lesions.


No inflexible histologic criteria should be employed for the diagnosis of LET. This subset of lupus erythematosus is characterized by intense photosensitivity, definite clinical lesions, a benign course, the absence of systemic disease, good response to antimalarial treatment, and a tendency to recur. More studies should be performed in order to establish the true incidence of LET because this subset of CCLE is probably underestimated.

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