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December 1961

Photosensitization to Coal Tar: A Cause of Psoriatic Erythroderma

Author Affiliations


From the Hitchcock Clinic, Department of Dermatology, Hanover, N.H.

Resident in Dermatology, Hitchcock Clinic, Hanover; at present Instructor in Clinical Dermatology, University of Vermont Medical School, Burlington (Dr. Starke); Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Dartmouth Medical School, and Head of Department of Dermatology, Hitchcock Clinic (Dr. Jillson).

Arch Dermatol. 1961;84(6):935-936. doi:10.1001/archderm.1961.01580180051007

Erythroderma is a rare and dramatic complication of psoriasis. It can be precipitated by infection, pregnancy, systemic administration of arsenic, antimalarials, and corticosteroids, as well as topical medicaments.1-3 The purpose of this paper is to report a case of psoriatic erythroderma as a complication of allergic contact dermatitis to coal tar, in which the relationship of sunlight to this condition is shown by photoskin tests.

Report of Cases  A 37-year-old truck driver with a 20-year history of chronic psoriasis was admitted in January, 1960, to the hospital for the Goeckermann regimen, consisting of coal tar, baths, and ultraviolet light. He had been treated previously with coal tar on numerous occasions without any adverse effects. On the second day of therapy, after having received 2 minutes of hot quartz ultraviolet light to the entire body, he developed an acute erythema, identical to a first degree sunburn, which rapidly developed into