Psychogenic purpura (autoerythrocyte sensitization): an unsolved dilemma

Am J Med. 1989 Sep;87(3N):16N-21N.


Experience at University Hospitals of Cleveland with 71 cases of Gardner and Diamond's syndrome of autoerythrocyte sensitization is reviewed. Gardner and Diamond attributed the pathogenesis of the inflammatory bruises typical of this syndrome to sensitization to the stroma of the patients' own erythrocytes, as demonstrated by reproduction of the lesion on intracutaneous injection of erythrocytic stroma. Nearly all the cases my colleagues and I have seen were in adult women, in whom the onset of inflammatory bruising could often be precisely dated, frequently some weeks after an injury or surgical procedure or, more often, severe emotional stress. Bouts of bruising were often preceded by sensations localized to the affected site. Cutaneous responses to the injection of erythrocytes were erratic. The patients described a wide range of both hemorrhagic and nonhemorrhagic complaints, including, among others, severe headaches, paresthesias, repeated syncope, diplopia (sometimes monocular), and "nervousness." Psychiatric studies indicated that patients had overt depression, sexual problems, feelings of hostility, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. The patients had traits that can be described as typical of a hysterical character disorder. Therapy of autoerythrocyte sensitization--that is, psychogenic purpura--has been difficult; in younger individuals, psychiatric therapy has appeared to be beneficial.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoimmune Diseases / complications*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / psychology
  • Erythrocytes / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / complications*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / immunology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology
  • Purpura / complications*
  • Purpura / immunology
  • Purpura / psychology