Purpose of review: Nutritional deficiency is prevalent in developing countries but should also be considered in developed countries in the setting of genetic or acquired disease states. The skin is commonly involved and is often one of the first organs affected in nutritional deficiency, providing a key to the diagnosis. This article will review the most common nutritional deficiencies causing a periorificial and/or acrodermatitis: zinc deficiency, biotin deficiency, kwashiorkor, and essential fatty acid deficiency.
Recent findings: Whereas older literature has focused on the relationship among nutritional deficiency, malnutrition and poverty, recent research has identified additional patient populations that are at risk for developing nutritional deficiencies. These populations include premature infants, patients with long-term total parenteral nutrition, Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, intestinal bypass procedures, chronic alcoholics, anorexia nervosa, and restrictive diets. Recent studies have also focused on further understanding the genetic basis of inherited nutritional deficiencies such as acrodermatitis enteropathica.
Summary: Skin manifestations can lead a provider to the diagnosis of a nutritional deficiency. In a child with a periorificial or acral dermatitis, the diagnosis of zinc, biotin, protein, or essential fatty acid deficiency should be considered, especially if accompanied by systemic signs of failure to thrive.