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Mycosis Fungoides - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Mycosis Fungoides, is a rare form of non-hodgkin's lymphoma. It is also known as cutaneous T cell lymphoma, which affects the skin. This results in a rash. It first appears on the skin and can spread to the lymph nodes or other organs such as the spleen, liver, or lungs. The disease is typically slowly progressive and chronic. In advanced cases, ulcerated tumors and infiltration of lymph nodes by diseased cells may occur. The disorder may spread to other parts of the body including the gastrointestinal system, liver, spleen, or brain. It affects men twice as often as women, and is more common in black people than in whites. Mycosis fungoides can begin at any age, but the most common age is 50 years old. The cause of the disease is unknown. Diagnosis is sometimes difficult because the early phases of the disease often resemble eczema or even psoriasis. As with any serious disease, it is advisable to pursue the opinion of a medical professional if a case is suspected. Diagnosis is generally accomplished through a skin biopsy.

Must people who have mycosis fungoides have it for years. It can cause death but this is unusual. Most people who have this condition live a normal life span and die of something else. One of the reasons is that MF is one of the most difficult diagnoses to make in dermatopathology. The other reason is that mycosis fungoides is a great imitator and clinical diagnosis, particularly in the early stages, is extremely difficult. Early in the course of disease, skin lesions may be non-specific, with a non-diagnostic biopsy result, and so confusion with benign conditions is common. If treatment is successful the disease can go into a non-progressing state with clinically clear examination and various tests. This is called remission; it can last indefinitely. Treatments may also cause disease not to progress, while still present, and this is called stable disease; it may last indefinitely but is a more serious situation.

Causes of Mycosis fungoides

Common causes and risk factors of Mycosis fungoides:

  • Hereditary or genetic.
  • Lymphoma.

Signs and Symptoms of Mycosis fungoides

Typical visible symptoms include rashlike patches, tumors, or lesions. Itching is common. Classic locations include the face, buttocks, intertriginous areas, and breasts; consistent locations include the trunk and proximal extremities; atypical locations are the distal extremities, the palms or soles and a single lesion anywhere on the body. Diagnosis is sometimes difficult because the early phases of the disease often resemble eczema or even psoriasis. As with any serious disease, it is advisable to pursue the opinion of a medical professional if a case is suspected.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Skin ulcers.
  • Patches of red and brown color.
  • Itching alone.
  • Spreading of skin rash.
  • Painful open sores.

Treatment for Mycosis fungoides

Treatments such as steroid creams, chemotherapy applied to the skin, or electron beam radiation may be used. Selection of treatments typically depends on patient preference and access to therapies, as well as recommendations by physicians, the stage of the disease, established resistance to prior therapies, allergies of the patient, clinical evidence of a positive benefit:risk ratio, and so on. If an individual's disease does not respond to the skin treatments, or the disease has progressed to the tumor stage, systemic treatments such as recombinant alfa interferon or chemotherapy may be used.

Treatment may include:

  • The steroid creams or ointments are useful to relieve the itching that may occur.
  • Oral or injected chemotherapy are also beneficial.
  • Chemotherapy to the skin is an effective remedy for mycosis fungoides.
  • Electron beam therapy is useful to get relief from pain and itching.  
  • Mild mycosis fungoides can be treated effectively with cortisone ointments.