Pemphigus vulgaris: A review of treatment of over a 19-year period

S. Ljubojević, J. Lipozenčić, S. Brenner, D. Budimčić

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Background. Pemphigus vulgaris is an autoimmune blistering disease of the skin and mucous membranes with a high mortality if left untreated. Objective. We present a retrospective analysis of 159 patients with pemphigus vulgaris and pemphigus vegetans who were admitted to the Department of Dermatology and Venereology, Zagreb University Hospital Center (Zagreb, Croatia) from 1980 to 1998. Results. Female to male ratio was approximately 2 : 1. The mean age was 53 years. During the war years in Croatia (1991-95) we noticed a low incidence of pemphigus vulgaris, and from 1996 to 1998 the incidence almost doubled. Diagnosis was based on histopathology [showing typical pemphigus vulgaris changes in 156 (98%) patients], indirect immunofluorescence [positive in 122 (77%) patients], direct immunofluorescence [positive in 141 (89%) patients], and blister smear cytology (Tzanck test) [positive in 115 (72%) patients]. High dosages of prednisone (100-150 mg) were given to 129 patients, which was combined with azathioprine. Patients with refractory pemphigus vulgaris were treated with intramuscular gold (14 patients) and plasmapheresis (five patients). All patients were treated with local ointments. The prolonged use of high doses of corticosteroids and immunosuppressants caused several complications, in particular, steroid diabetes (37 patients), skin infections (26 patients), arterial hypertension (23 patients), cardiorespiratory diseases (22 patients), sepsis (nine patients), etc. During the hospital treatment, 14 patients died, 10 during 1980-89 and only four during the 1990-98 period. The main causes of death were cardiorespiratory failure (six patients) and sepsis (five patients). Conclusions. Although pemphigus vulgaris is still a life-threatening disease, today it can be successfully treated with a combination of immunosuppressive agents. Early diagnosis and treatment of pemphigus vulgaris allow a better prognosis with lower mortality rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-603
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Epidemiology of pemphigus
  • Pemphigus vegetans
  • Pemphigus vulgaris
  • Treatment


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