Skin pathology findings in a cohort of 1500 adult and elderly subjects

Int J Dermatol. 1999 May;38(5):361-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-4362.1999.00720.x.


Background: No extensive studies are available in the literature on the eventual skin pathology induced by neurologic or systemic diseases in elderly individuals. Other factors, such as health and hygiene, socioeconomic status, and climate can also play an important role.

Methods: Fifteen-hundred subjects (886 women and 614 men; mean age, 67.8 years; range, 39-90 years) were admitted to the Department of Geriatrics at the Oasi Institute between 1992 and 1997; all these subjects were carefully evaluated from a dermatologic point of view. Each subject underwent specialist examinations, routine blood analyses, thoracic X-rays, cerebral computerized tomography (CT) scan, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) when appropriate. A group of subjects without significant neurologic or systemic disease, comprising 116 women and 60 men (mean age, 64.5 years; range, range, 40-90 years), was selected and used as a normal control group. Subsequently, our attention was focused on the eventual presence of the following neurologic diseases: Alzheimer-type dementia, vascular dementia, mixed-type dementia, subcortical dementia, Parkinson's disease, vascular brain disease, hemiplegia, etc. Thus, different subgroups were formed on the basis of such diagnostic categories and the frequency of skin pathology in each subgroup was evaluated.

Results: Of the 1500 subjects, 1439 stated that they had never been affected by dermatologic disease. No statistically significant difference in frequency of skin pathology was found between normal controls and the different patient subgroups. Unsuspected and singular dermatoses were found, however, such as paraneoplastic syndromes, idiopathic tripe palms, white fibrous papulosis of the neck as an expression of photoaging, conditions induced by former popular traditions of Sicilian culture (anetoderma secondary to the application of Hirudo medicinalis and erythema ab igne), pigmented dermatoses never described before in Italy (prurigo pigmentosa and friction amyloidosis), and nail abnormalities (atypical half-and-half nail, and dyschromic nail changes in multiple system atrophy and in hemiplegia).

Conclusions: The dermatologic screening performed in 1500 patients revealed several unexpected diagnoses and some original observations. Some rare dermatoses were described and certain hypotheses were suggested to explain the peculiar dyschromic changes of the fingernails in multiple system atrophy, the atypical cases of half-and-half nail, and the so-called idiopathic tripe palms associated with psoriasis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology
  • Skin Diseases / pathology*