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October 2017

From Paris to Vienna—The Varied Names and Descriptions of Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus in the 19th Century

Author Affiliations
  • 1Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Department of Dermatology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(10):998. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.3108

The varied cutaneous presentations of lupus erythematosus (LE) continue to make its diagnosis challenging even for experienced diagnosticians. In accordance with its many manifestations, cutaneous LE has been known by several different names throughout history. During the mid-19th century, dermatologists at the prominent Paris and Vienna schools of dermatology began synthesizing the diverse cutaneous features of LE into a uniform diagnosis.

While lupus, from the Latin for “wolf,” is today generally understood to refer to LE, in the 19th century the term was widely applied to a variety of ulcerative and destructive cutaneous lesions of the face. In particular, lupus vulgaris, which described the nodular, ulcerative lesions of cutaneous tuberculosis, was then a relatively common dermatologic diagnosis.1