Department of Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Maulana Azad Medical College and Associated Lok Nayak Hospital, New Delhi, India
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A 21-year-old unmarried woman presented with oral ulcerations and generalized, itchy, fluid-filled, skin lesions of 10 days' duration. The lesions ruptured spontaneously, resulting in extensive denuded areas covered by crusts. One month prior to this, she experienced pain and enlargement of both breasts with galactorrhea. Her menstrual cycles were normal initially, but later she developed menstrual irregularities. No past history suggestive of any other systemic or skin disease, including atopy or drug allergies, could be obtained. Her family history was not contributory.Dermatologic examination revealed multiple, flaccid bullae and extensive denuded areas of skin covered with crusts over the scalp, face, trunk, and upper and lower limbs (Fig. 1). Bulla spread sign and Nikolsky's sign were positive. The oral mucosa, including the lips, buccal surface, tongue, and palate, showed multiple erosions covered with necrotic slough. The rest of the mucocutaneous and systemic examination was within normal limits.The patient's diagnostic work-up revealed: hemoglobin, 11.2 g%; total leukocyte count, 7400/mm3; differential leukocyte count, P62L34E2M2; erythrocyte sedimentation rate, 34 mm/h. A peripheral blood smear examination, urinalysis, blood sugar, and renal and liver function tests were normal. Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) test and enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA) for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were nonreactive. Antinuclear antibody, lupus erythematosus (LE) cell, rheumatoid factor, and anti-dsDNA levels were normal. Serum protein electrophoresis demonstrated increased levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody. The serum prolactin level was significantly raised to 139.49 ng/mL (normal, 3.6–18.9 ng/mL). The sex hormone levels, however, including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estradiol, and progesterone, were within normal limits. The thyroid hormone profile was also unaltered. Chest X-ray was normal. Ultrasound of the abdomen and pelvis revealed no visceral abnormality and computerized tomography (CT) scan of the pituitary sella showed no adenoma. Mammography was negative for breast malignancy. A Tzanck smear prepared from the base of the erosion showed multiple acantholytic cells and lymphocytes. Histologic examination from an intact vesicle was suggestive of pemphigus vulgaris (PV), showing a suprabasal cleft with acantholytic cells and the basal layer demonstrating a “row of tombstones” appearance (Fig. 2). Direct immunofluorescence (DIF) revealed the intercellular deposition of IgG and C3 throughout the epidermis in a “fishnet pattern.” Indirect immunofluorescence (IIF) test performed on rat esophagus for circulating IgG antibody was positive in a titer of 1 : 120.Based on the clinical and immunohistological features, a diagnosis of PV with idiopathic hyperprolactinemia was made. The patient was treated with bromocriptine mesylate (Tablet Proctinal, Glaxo Wellcome Ltd, India) at a dose of 2.5 mg twice a day. After 2 months of therapy, significant improvement in the skin lesions was observed. The existing lesions re-epithelialized with a drastic reduction in the number and distribution of new vesicles. However, no change in the mucosal erosions was noticed. IIF test demonstrated a lower antibody titer (1 : 40). The breast complaints also improved with a reduction in serum prolactin level to 6.5 ng/mL.The patient refused further treatment as she experienced nausea and dizziness with bromocriptine. After 2 weeks, the disease relapsed with the appearance of new vesicles over the forearms, abdomen, back, and thighs. She again complained of breast tenderness and galactorrhea, and the serum prolactin level was 95 ng/mL. The IgG titer increased to 1 : 120. Hence, treatment with oral prednisolone (2 mg/kg/day) and bromocriptine (2.5 mg twice a day) with an antiemetic was initiated. After 6 weeks, the skin lesions had cleared completely, the breast symptoms had improved, menses had become regular, and the prolactin level had decreased to 4 ng/mL. IIF test was negative for circulating antibody. Steroids were tapered off and maintenance therapy with bromocriptine at a dose of 2.5 mg/day was continued.