|Year : 2020 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 44-49
Terra firma-forme dermatosis: a hospital-based clinico-epidemiological study at a tertiary care centre in northern India
Ramesh Kumar, Arti Singh, Rozy Badyal, Suresh Kumar Jain, Asha Nyati
Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, Government Medical College, Kota, Rajasthan, India
|Date of Submission||29-Mar-2019|
|Date of Decision||28-Aug-2019|
|Date of Acceptance||25-Feb-2020|
|Date of Web Publication||10-Jul-2020|
Suresh Kumar Jain
MD Dermatologist, senior professor, Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, Government Medical College, Kota, Rajasthan
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Background: Terra firma-forme dermatosis is an idiopathic keratinization disorder characterized by acquired, dirt-like plaques despite normal hygiene which was first described in 1987. Aims: We conducted a clinical study in patients who presented with Terra-firma forme dermatosis. In this we describe the clinical features of Terra firma-forme dermatosis along with a proposal of its diagnostic criteria. Methods: A prospective study was conducted at the dermatology department of a tertiary care hospital to identify cases of Terra firma-forme dermatosis diagnosed over a period of 14 months (July, 2016, to September, 2017). The diagnosis of Terra firma-forme dermatosis was confirmed in all patients who had complete resolution of each lesion after the application of 70% isopropyl alcohol. Results: Prevalence of Terra firma-forme dermatosis was 0.05% at our outpatient department. Male to female sex ratio was 4:1(37:9). 46 patients with Terra firma-forme dermatosis were identified, including 27 (58.6%) who presented with it as their primary concern. 36 (78.26 %) were from 6 to 18 years of age group. The mean duration of lesions was 6.86 months. The most common location was the neck. The commonest cause was ignorance regarding proper cleansing techniques, inadequate pressure while scrubbing the affected area. Limitations: A small sample size and relatively short duration of follow up. Conclusions: Terra-firma forme dermatosis is a benign dermatologic condition. Awareness among the clinicians about the existence of Terra firma-forme dermatosis is essential to save time for the clinician and to reduce the economic burden on the patient.
Keywords: Dermatosis neglecta, Duncan dermatosis, isopropyl alcohol
|How to cite this article:|
Kumar R, Singh A, Badyal R, Jain SK, Nyati A. Terra firma-forme dermatosis: a hospital-based clinico-epidemiological study at a tertiary care centre in northern India. Pigment Int 2020;7:44-9
|How to cite this URL:|
Kumar R, Singh A, Badyal R, Jain SK, Nyati A. Terra firma-forme dermatosis: a hospital-based clinico-epidemiological study at a tertiary care centre in northern India. Pigment Int [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jun 27];7:44-9. Available from: https://www.pigmentinternational.com/text.asp?2020/7/1/44/289334
Key Messages: Terra-firma forme dermatosis is a common dermatosis which is often missed easily. Therefore, clinicians are need to be aware about the existence of Terra firma-forme dermatosis in order to save time, avoid unnecessary investigations and to reduce the economic burden and anxiety to the patient.
| Introduction|| |
Terra-firma forme dermatosis (TFFD) is a clinical condition resembling dirt on the skin. In Latin the phrase terra-firma means dry land. , Its first description was done by Duncan, Tschen and Knox in 1987.  The condition has been predominantly reported in children.,,,
Dermatitis neglecta (DN), which is a somewhat related condition, was described by Poskitt and Wayte, characterized by accumulation of hyperpigmented, hyperkeratotic, verrucous crusts secondary to poor skin hygiene.
The etiology, prevalence, age, gender and anatomic locations are still poorly defined. Although, it is not infrequent tobe recognized in clinical practice, TFFD has been described as an uncommon condition. This could be due to paucity of systematic studies and lack of significant epidemiological data on these patients. The absence of a standard definition and validated diagnostic criteria may have contributed to this underreporting. A need for correct and timely recognition exists. We describe the clinical features, diagnosis, course and treatment of a series of 46 patients with TFFD at our institute seen over a period of 14 months.
| Aims and objectives|| |
We conducted a clinical study in patients who presented with TFFD. In the present study we describe the clinical features of TFFD along with a proposal of its diagnostic criteria.
| Methods|| |
Written informed consent was obtained from the patients. A prospective study was conducted at the dermatology department of our tertiary care hospital to identify cases of TFFD diagnosed over a period of 14 months (July, 2016, to September, 2017). Collected variables included age, sex, anatomic location, duration, and comorbid conditions. Dermatitis neglecta cases were excluded if the history of hygiene in the area of lesions was uncertain. The diagnosis of TFFD was based on clinical presentation of asymptomatic brown to blackish areas with a velvety texture, not removable by washing with water and/or soaps (negative soap water swab test) but removed with gentle 70 % isopropyl alcohol swabbing (positive alcohol swab test). All patients in this study had normal washing habits. The demographic and clinical features of studied patients are summarized in [Table 1]. All patients were subjected to dermoscopic examination before and after alcohol swabbing.
|Table 1 Demographic and clinical characteristics of46 TFFD patients in our study|
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Clinical and dermoscopic findings are presented as absolute numbers (percentage).
| Results|| |
Forty-six cases were identified. Thirty-seven (80.43%) were males and 9 (19.5%) females. Male to female sex ratio was around 4:1(37:9). Age ranged from 5 years to 70 years (mean 20.44 years). Twenty-seven (58.6%) patients presented with these lesions as their primary concern, whereas 6 (13.04%) presented with the lesions as secondary concerns. In the remaining 13 (28.26%) cases, the lesions were noticed on physical examination, and further history and evaluation confirmed TFFD. The most common lesion location was the neck in 18(39.1%) patients followed by lateral trunk in 9 (19.56%) cases [Table 1]. Less-common locations included the umbilicus and ear concha in 5 (10.8%) each, genitalia and chest in 4 (8.6%) each, ankles in three (6.5%) and areola and back in two (4.34%) cases each in conjunction with lesions on other sites. Almost all lesions were bilateral symmetrical. Classical dirt-like plaques were seen in 37 (80.43 %) patients while three (6.5 %) had reticulate; two (4.34 %) patients each had verrucous-like, stuck-on appearance and linear lesions respectively [Figure 1]. The mean duration of lesions before presentation was 6.86 months (range- 2 months to 24 months). The common co-morbid conditions associated were atopic dermatitis, keloid and leprosy in two patients each while vitiligo, discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), leiomyoma, progressive macular hypomelanosis, genital ulcer, marginal keratoderma and tinea capitis in one patient each. All lesions readily cleared with gentle rubbing with alcohol swabs. One patient had recrudescence at umbilicus after 3 months. Moreover, no recurrences were seen in the patients who returned to the clinic for new concerns or follow-up of other conditions. The dermoscopic appearance of all studied patients revealed similar findings, with large polygonal plate-like brown scales arranged together giving a mosaic pattern or tile-like pattern interrupted in furrows. These features disappeared completely after alcohol swabbing of the lesions [Figure 2]e-f.
|Figure 1 Various variants of TFFD. (a, b) classical reticulate type; (c, d) verrucous type; (e, f) stuck on type.|
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|Figure 2 Before and after cleaning image of TFFD. (a, b) isopropyl swab; (c, d) dermascopic finding; (e, f) using Dermlite DL3 dermatoscope (10 x magnification).|
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| Discussion|| |
TFFD is one of the dirt-like dermatoses along with dermatitis neglecta (DN), confluent and reticulated papillomatosis (CRP), acanthosis nigricans (AN), and the “dirty neck syndrome” of atopic dermatitis. TFFD and DN can be differentiated from dermatitis artefacta (DA) as here there is an element of not cleansing (act of omission) whereas there is a voluntary or involuntary act of creating an insult on the skin in the later (act of commission) [Table 2].
|Table 2 Differential diagnosis of TFFD,,,,,,,,]|
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Prolonged cell-to-cell adhesion is caused by delayed keratinocyte maturation which impairs the shedding process  while the excess of keratinocytes build-up with local sebum and dirt leads to the hyperpigmentation seen clinically.
Although, actual cause of TFFD is still not clear, the reported various causative factors emollients, sun exposure, failure to rinse the oil, or liquid cleansers during a shower, and application of urea-containing emollients on dry or eczematous skin may also be responsible.  We think the vigorous use of oils before and after baths could be one of the reasons for TFFD formation in our patients. There may be an association between TFFD and xerosis, which is also a disorder of keratinization.
Few case reports have mentioned genetic predisposition in this condition ,,, but none of findings were suggestive of genetic predisposition in our study. Although some patients had vitiligo, acne, keratoderma, and tinea, but the locations of the TFFD lesions were different from where these lesions and there was no relationship between these dermatoses and TFFD.
Previous case reports and studies have most commonly found lesions on skin folds. ,,, Similarly, we also found lesions on the flexures like, neck, trunk, umbilical fold, inguinal region and ankle in decreasing order.
Both sexes and all age groups have been found to be affected by TFFD though most common age group was in children.,,, In our study, most of the patients were children and males. Most of our patients were boys and the lesions had been noticed by their mothers.
Recurrences were not reported in previous cases reports.,,, We had similar findings and during a period of 14 months, only one case of recurrence was seen on umbilicus.
Although many small case series and case reports have been reported but still, only few studies of TFFD have been reported., From India, thirteen patients were reported.,, In the two largest retrospective studies, Aslan et al. reported 79 cases over 14 months period while Berk et al. described 31 cases over 17 months duration, illustrating that the condition is not as uncommon as the literature might suggest. Large number of cases were reported from Turkey, followed by USA. ,,
Our study revealed many important findings. Since there are no standard diagnostic criteria, the diagnosis of TFFD in most cases is clinical. Based on our experience of 46 cases, we have proposed a diagnostic criteria for TFFD [Table 3]. Cases were graded as definite, probable or possible TFFD based on these criteria. We applied the criteria on our cases and the diagnosis of TFFD was definite in 39 and probable in seven cases.
In a short period (46 cases in 14 months) a large number of cases suggests that TFFD may not be as uncommon as reported in the literature. Second, the large number of cases collected allows identification of the most common locations of lesions: neck, lateral trunk, umbilicus and ankle. Lastly, similar to other studies, our study also suggests that TFFD occurs more commonly in children 36 (78.26 %).
Similar to other previous studies, , on dermoscopy, in all studied patients, we also found large polygonal plate-like brown scales arranged together giving a mosaic pattern or tile-like pattern interrupted in furrows, which were disappeared completely after alcohol swabbing of the lesions.
Timely diagnosis and treatment are necessary of TFFD. Isopropyl or 70% ethyl alcohol or “surgical spirit” swab is still the gold standard for diagnosis and treatment.,,, Keratolytic agents such as lactic acid or 2% salicylic acid or urea lotion may be required in more resistant lesions and chronic lesions., In small children who do not tolerate alcohol due to the irritancy potential, freshly squeezed lemon juice is an ideal choice. , Literature also has reports of successful treatment with scrub bath with pumice and oral retinoids.,,
| Limitations of study|| |
A small sample size and short duration of follow up has been a limitation in understanding the disease.
| Conclusion|| |
TFFD is not probably uncommon than previously thought to be. The rapid clearance by scrubbing with surgical spirit gives an instant gratification and satisfaction for the patient, parents and the physician. In addition, to the best of our knowledge we are presenting the largest case series from India. We advocate more studies with histo-pathological correlation. Children and parents must be made aware by the clinicians about the benign nature of TFFD. The proposed diagnostic criteria may be used for making a diagnosis of TFFD and needs to be validated further in prospective studies and in different population groups.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interestThere are no conflicts of interest
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2]
[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]