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Perioral Dermatitis at a Glance
  • Inflammatory skin disorder of young women and children.
  • Small papules, vesicles, and pustules in perioral, periorbital, and/or perinasal distribution.
  • Treatment: stop topical corticosteroid use; initiate 2- to 3-month course of systemic antibiotics (tetracycline family or erythromycin) and/or topical metronidazole.

Perioral dermatitis is characterized by small, discrete papules and pustules in a periorificial distribution, predominantly around the mouth. Because this condition can involve areas other than the perioral region, the term periorificial dermatitis has been proposed for this disorder.1,2 The classic presentation is an eruption with overlapping features of an eczematous dermatitis and an acneiform eruption. Although initially described in young women of 15–25 years of age, perioral dermatitis is now recognized to occur in children as well.3 A subset of perioral dermatitis shows granulomas when lesional skin is examined histologically. Several names have been used to describe this granulomatous form of perioral dermatitis, including granulomatous perioral dermatitis, facial Afro-Caribbean childhood eruption, and granulomatous periorificial dermatitis.2,4,5

The first reports describing perioral dermatitis appeared in the 1950s; various names were given to the condition, however, there was a lack of defining clinical criteria. In 1957, Frumess and Lewis described a “light sensitive seborrheid” that is generally accepted as the first account of what was later termed perioral dermatitis by Mihan and Ayres in 1964.6,7 Later descriptions by Cochran and Thomson8 and Wilkinson, Kirton, and Wilkinson9 further defined this disorder, and more recently the term periorificial dermatitis has been proposed.2 The condition was first described in children in the late 1960s.

Adult perioral dermatitis predominantly affects women. Pediatric perioral dermatitis may have a slight female preponderance and is seen equally among those of different races.1,10 The granulomatous form of perioral dermatitis has been reported mostly in children of prepubertal age.5 Perioral dermatitis can occur as early as 6 months.1 An increased prevalence in African-American children has been reported, but more recent reviews do not support this finding.2,11

A relationship of perioral dermatitis to the misuse of topical corticosteroids (fluorinated or nonfluorinated) has been well established.12 Patients often reveal a history of an acute steroid-responsive eruption around the mouth, nose, and/or eyes that worsens when the topical corticosteroid is discontinued. Dependency on the use of the topical corticosteroid may develop as the patient repeatedly treats the recurrent eruption. In other cases, the condition may worsen with the application of topical corticosteroids, especially in the granulomatous variant of perioral dermatitis, which usually occurs in prepubertal children.2 Perioral dermatitis has been reported in patients using inhaled corticosteroids13 and with inadvertent facial exposure to topical corticosteroids.14 However, perioral dermatitis is not always linked to topical corticosteroids.9 The exact cause of perioral dermatitis in these other cases is unclear. Although isolated reports of affected siblings exist,...

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