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Clinical features of 31 patients with systemic contact dermatitis due to the ingestion of Rhus (lacquer)

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In Korea, Rhus has been used as a folk medicine to cure gastrointestinal diseases and as a health food. We review the clinicopathological and laboratory findings in patients with systemic contact dermatitis caused by intake of Rhus. We reviewed medical records and histopathological sections from 31 patients during a 10-year period. The male/female ratio was 1·4 : 1 and the average age was 43·8 years (range 22–70). Ten patients (32%) had a known history of allergy to lacquer. Rhus was ingested to treat gastrointestinal problems including indigestion and gastritis (45%), and as a health food (39%), in cooked meat, in herbal medicine, or taken by inhalation. The patients developed skin lesions such as a maculopapular eruption (65%), erythema multiforme (EM, 32%), erythroderma (19%), pustules, purpura, weals and blisters. Erythroderma was very frequent in patients with a known history of allergy to lacquer, but maculopapular and EM-type eruptions were more frequently observed in those without a history of allergy. All patients experienced generalized or localized pruritus. Other symptoms included gastrointestinal problems (32%), fever (26%), chills and headache; many developed leucocytosis (70%) with neutrophilia (88%), while some showed toxic effects on liver and kidney. Fifty-nine per cent of patients observed cutaneous or general symptoms within a day after ingestion of Rhus. There was no difference in the time lag for symptoms to develop between patients allergic and not allergic to Rhus. All patients responded well to treatment with systemic steroids and antihistamines. Common histopathological findings were vascular dilatation, perivascular lymphohistiocytic infiltration, and extravasation of red blood cells in the upper dermis. Rhus lacquer should not be ingested in view of its highly allergic and toxic effects.
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Keywords: Rhus; systemic contact dermatitis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Dermatology, Wonkwang University School of Medicine, 344-2 Shinyong-dong, Iksan, Chonbuk 570-711, Korea

Publication date: May 1, 2000

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