Pemphigus Foliaceus: A Prevalent Autoimmune Skin Disorder in Brazil

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Brazilian Pemphigus Foliaceus: A Unique Autoimmune Skin Disease


Brazilian pemphigus foliaceus (BPF) is a rare autoimmune skin disease that affects the skin and mucous membranes. It is characterized by the formation of blisters and erosions on the skin, often accompanied by itching and burning. BPF is primarily found in Brazil, where it was first described in the early 20th century.

Etiology and Pathogenesis

The exact cause of BPF is unknown, but it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. In BPF, the immune system target the desmoglein proteins that hold skin cells together.

The desmogleins are found in the desmosomes, which are structures that connect adjacent skin cells. When the desmosomes are damaged, the skin cells become separated and blisters form. The blisters are typically fragile and break easily, leading to erosions and crusting.

Clinical Manifestations

BPF typically presents with blisters and erosions on the skin, often affecting the face, trunk, and extremities. The blisters are usually small and superficial, and they may rupture easily. The affected areas may also be red, swollen, and itchy.

In some cases, BPF can also affect the mucous membranes of the mouth, eyes, and genitals. This can lead to oral ulcers, conjunctivitis, and vaginal discharge.


The diagnosis of BPF is based on a combination of clinical findings, laboratory tests, and skin biopsy.

  • Clinical findings: The typical appearance of the skin lesions, along with the patient’s history and symptoms, can help the doctor make a diagnosis of BPF.
  • Laboratory tests: Blood tests may be performed to check for antibodies against desmoglein proteins. The presence of these antibodies can support the diagnosis of BPF.
  • Skin biopsy: A skin biopsy involves removing a small piece of skin from the affected area for examination under a microscope. The biopsy can reveal the characteristic histopathological changes of BPF, such as the separation of skin cells and the formation of blisters.


The treatment of BPF aims to suppress the autoimmune response and prevent the formation of new blisters. The main treatment options include:

  • Topical corticosteroids: Topical corticosteroids are medications that are applied directly to the skin to reduce inflammation and itching.
  • Oral corticosteroids: Oral corticosteroids are medications that are taken by mouth to suppress the immune system.
  • Immunosuppressive drugs: Immunosuppressive drugs are medications that suppress the immune system and prevent it from attacking the skin.
  • Biologic therapies: Biologic therapies are medications that target specific components of the immune system. They can be used to block the inflammatory response and prevent the formation of blisters.


The prognosis of BPF varies depending on the severity of the disease and the patient’s response to treatment. With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, most patients can achieve good control of their symptoms and prevent complications. However, some patients may experience recurrent flares or require long-term immunosuppressive therapy.


Complications of BPF can include:

  • Skin infections: The open blisters and erosions can provide an entry point for bacteria, leading to skin infections.
  • Scarring: Repeated blistering and erosion can lead to scarring of the skin.
  • Eye problems: If BPF affects the mucous membranes of the eyes, it can lead to conjunctivitis, corneal scarring, and even vision loss.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Patients with BPF may have difficulty eating due to oral ulcers. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies.


BPF is primarily found in Brazil, where it is the most common type of pemphigus. It is also found in other parts of South America and in some areas of Europe and Asia. The exact prevalence of BPF is unknown, but it is estimated to affect approximately 1 in 100,000 people in Brazil.


Brazilian pemphigus foliaceus is a rare autoimmune skin disease that can cause significant discomfort and distress. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential to prevent complications and improve the quality of life for patients. While the exact cause of BPF is still unknown, ongoing research is helping to shed light on the disease process and develop more effective treatments.

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