Schamberg's Disease

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PatientPlus articles are written by UK doctors and are based on research evidence, UK and European Guidelines. They are designed for health professionals to use, so you may find the language more technical than the condition leaflets.

Synonyms: progressive pigmented purpuric dermatitis, Gougerot-Blum capillaritis, itching purpura, pigmented purpuric eruption

Schamberg's disease was first described by Schamberg in 1901 in a 15-year-old boy. It represents benign dermatoses with purpura due to leaking from capillaries close to the skin surface. It most often affects the legs and spreads slowly. The discolouration is brown/orange due to haemosiderin deposition in the skin.

Pigmented purpuric reactions have six disease types:[1] 

  • Progressive pigmentary purpura or Schamberg's disease.
  • Pigmented purpuric lichenoid dermatitis of Gougerot and Blum - red/brown papules and plaques in men - which responds to psoralen combined with ultraviolet A (PUVA) treatment.
  • Purpura annularis telangiectodes - rare, with a preponderance in young females and manifests as annular erythematous plaques and patches.
  • Eczematoid-like purpura of Doucas and Kapetanakis - occurs in men, with bilateral intensely itchy lesions on legs.
  • Lichen aureus - a localised persistent form of pigmented purpuric dermatitis.
  • Itching purpura of Lowenthal (disseminated pruriginous angiodermatitis) - rare (like Schamberg's disease) but accompanied by itching.

There is clinical and histological overlap between these and they may actually represent variable presentations of the same disease process.

The condition is rare and there are few epidemiological studies in the literature. One study of patients attending an Indian outpatient clinic over an 18-month period found that there were 100 cases of pigmented purpuric dermatosis in a total of 55,323 patients (0.18%). 95 of these patients had Schamberg's disease. The male-to-female ratio was 3.8:1. The age range was from 11-66 years with a mean of 34 years.[2] It is a common cause of petechiae in children.[3] There has been a case report of four family members with Schamberg's disease, suggesting a possible genetic link.[4]

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The underlying cause is not known. However, the following have been postulated:

  • Recent viral infection.
  • Hypersensitivity to an unknown causal agent.
  • Aberrant cell-mediated immunity (perivascular infiltrate has specific types of CD cells only).
  • Associated with certain medications - thiamine, aspirin, chlordiazepoxide and paracetamol. It has also been reported with bezafibrate and amlodipine.[7] 

There are no symptoms apart from itching and patients note their skin looks blotchy. For some this is enough to cause psychological distress. However, some patients have reported pains in their limbs - which may be coincidental.

Lesions are most commonly on the lower limbs bilaterally but can occur anywhere or be unilateral. A case involving the genitals has been reported.

The lesions consist of:

  • Asymmetrical brown/orange patches.
  • Non-blanchable purpura.
  • Petechiae called 'cayenne pepper' spots (develop at the edge of old lesions).

Patterns can vary - eg, annular, linear. There may also be associated lichenification, scaling and pruritic marks.

Other causes of purpura:

  • Blood tests - including platelets and clotting - are usually normal.
  • Autoantibody screen and hepatitis serology should be performed.
  • Skin biopsy - histology reveals a capillaritis of dermal vessels. Other changes that may be seen include perivascular inflammatory infiltrate, endothelial hypertrophy with extravasation of blood cells and haemosiderin-laden macrophages.[11] 
  • Examination of the skin using a dermatoscope may be helpful although there are limited reports in the literature.[12] 

Any suspected precipitants should be withdrawn.

  • Itching - treat with mild topical corticosteroid or antihistamines.
  • Good results have been obtained with narrow-band ultraviolet light.
  • One study reported the successful use of aminaphtone, a drug normally used in other venous conditions such as chronic venous congestion of the lower limbs.[13]
  • Superimposed infection - will need antibiotics.
  • Systemic steroids provide some benefits but these are outweighed by the risks of systemic side-effects.
  • Advanced fluorescent technology has produced some promising cosmetic results.[14] 

Other tried treatments include vitamin C supplements, laser therapy and wearing support hosiery to prevent venous stasis. There is no evidence of definite benefit of the former two. Immunosuppressants have also been used.[5] PUVA therapy has been used and the results look promising.[15]

Schamberg's disease usually runs a chronic course with frequent exacerbations and remissions. The rash may be present for many years with slow extension. Lesions may occasionally disappear spontaneously.

The development of T-cell lymphoma in patients with Schamberg's disease has been reported.[16] 

Further reading & references

  1. Kim DH, Seo SH, Ahn HH, et al; Characteristics and Clinical Manifestations of Pigmented Purpuric Dermatosis. Ann Dermatol. 2015 Aug;27(4):404-10. doi: 10.5021/ad.2015.27.4.404. Epub 2015 Jul 29.
  2. Sharma L, Gupta S; Clinicoepidemiological study of pigmented purpuric dermatoses. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2012 Jan;3(1):17-20. doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.93486.
  3. Mallory S et al; Illustrated Manual of Pediatric Dermatology, 2005.
  4. Sethuraman G, Sugandhan S, Bansal A, et al; Familial pigmented purpuric dermatoses. J Dermatol. 2006 Sep;33(9):639-41.
  5. Sardana K, Sarkar R, Sehgal VN; Pigmented purpuric dermatoses: an overview; Int J Dermatol. 2004 Jul;43(7):482-8.
  6. Capillaritis; DermNet NZ
  7. Schetz D, Kocic I; A new adverse drug reaction - Schamberg's disease caused by amlodipine administration - a case report. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2015 Aug 10. doi: 10.1111/bcp.12742.
  8. Ho C, Yan P, Mistry N, et al; Dermacase: Can you identify this condition? 4. Progressive pigmented purpuric Can Fam Physician. 2010 Oct;56(10):1023, 1024-5.
  9. Ugajin T, Satoh T, Yokozeki H, et al; Mycosis fungoides presenting as pigmented purpuric eruption. Eur J Dermatol. 2005 Nov-Dec;15(6):489-91.
  10. Nikam BP, Singh NJ, Shetty DD; Primary benign hypergammaglobulinemic purpura of Waldenstrom masquerading as disseminated Schamberg's purpura. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2011 Mar-Apr;77(2):205-8.
  11. Billings S et al; Inflammatory Dermatopathology: A Pathologist's Survival Guide, 2010.
  12. Khopkar U; Dermoscopy and Trichoscopy in Diseases of the Brown Skin, 2013.
  13. de Godoy JM, Batigalia F; Aminaphtone in the control of Schamberg's disease. Thromb J. 2009 Jun 11;7:8.
  14. Manolakos DA, Weiss J, Glick B, et al; Treatment of Schamberg's disease with advanced fluorescence technology. J Drugs Dermatol. 2012 Apr;11(4):528-9.
  15. Seckin D, Yazici Z, Senol A, et al; A case of Schamberg's disease responding dramatically to PUVA treatment. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2008 Apr;24(2):95-6.
  16. Shen A et al; Capillaritis as a potential harbinger of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, 2004.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Dr Gurvinder Rull
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Helen Huins
Document ID:
1723 (v23)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
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