An Appraisal of Oral Retinoids in the Treatment of Pachyonychia Congenita

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Jun;66(6):e193-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2011.02.003. Epub 2011 May 24.


Background: Pachyonychia congenita (PC), a rare autosomal-dominant keratin disorder caused by mutations in keratin genes KRT6A/B, KRT16, or KRT17, is characterized by painful plantar keratoderma and hypertrophic nail dystrophy. Available studies assessing oral retinoid treatment for PC are limited to a few case reports.

Objective: We sought to assess overall effectiveness, adverse effects, and patient perspective in patients with PC receiving oral retinoids.

Methods: In a questionnaire-based retrospective cross-sectional survey of 30 patient with PC assessing oral retinoids (10-50 mg/d for 1-240 months), we determined the clinical score, satisfaction score, visual analog pain scale, and adverse effects.

Results: In 50% of patients there was thinning of hyperkeratoses (average improvement 1.6 on a scale from -3 to +3) (95% confidence interval 1.2-1.9, P < .001). In all, 14% observed amelioration of their pachyonychia; 79% did not experience any nail change. The self-reported overall satisfaction score with oral retinoid treatment was 2 or greater in 50% of the patients (mean 4.5 on a scale of 1-10). Although 33% reported decreased and 27% increased plantar pain with treatment, 40% did not notice any pain change. All patients experienced adverse effects, and 83% reported to have discontinued medication. Risk/benefit analysis favored lower retinoid doses (≤25 mg/d) over a longer time period (>5 months), compared with higher doses (>25 mg/d) for a shorter time (≤5 months).

Limitations: The retrospective, cross-sectional study design is prone to a recall bias.

Conclusion: Oral retinoids are effective in some patients with PC. However, many patients discontinued medication because adverse effects outweighed the benefits. Careful dose titration is warranted in patients informed about potential adverse effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acitretin / therapeutic use
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isotretinoin / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Pachyonychia Congenita / drug therapy*
  • Pachyonychia Congenita / genetics
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Retinoids / administration & dosage
  • Retinoids / adverse effects
  • Retinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Retinoids
  • Isotretinoin
  • Acitretin