Background: Beta-thalassemia major affects multiple organs and is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality. The goal of this analysis was to document the frequency of skin diseases among patients with beta-thalassemia major.
Methods: A sample of 78 patients with beta-thalassemia major was recruited and interviewed at the thalassemia clinic between April and June 2008. A dermatologist completed a skin examination of each patient and recorded any skin disease present. The patients' laboratory results and treatment modalities were recorded from the charts.
Results: Sixty-five (83.3%) of the 78 patients examined had a diagnosed skin disease: pruritus (37.2%), xerosis (34.6%), scars (24.4%), ephelides (23.1%), skin irritation/erythema caused by deferoxamine pump (12.8%), idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (6.4%), pityriasis alba (6.4%), tinea infections (5.1%), verruca vulgaris (5.1%), urticaria (3.8%), hyperhidrosis, contact dermatitis, and acne (2.6%), necrobiosis lipoidica (1.3%), melasma (1.3%), and others (14.1%). Pruritus and xerosis increased in frequency with age. The mean serum ferritin level was higher in patients with xerosis than in those without (5607.7 +/- 2997.5 ng/mL and 4285.2 +/- 4732.4 ng/mL, respectively) (P1/4 0.005). Moreover, xerosis was observed significantly more frequently inpatients using deferoxamine and deferiprone than in those using deferasirox (P1/4 0.047, P1/4 0.027, and P1/4 0.273, respectively).
Conclusion: Skin diseases, especially pruritus and xerosis, are observed highly frequently inpatients with beta-thalassemia major. Treatment is needed for these patients who already have other significant morbidities.