What is pyoderma gangrenosum?
Pyoderma gangrenosum is a rare treatable cause of skin ulcers. It is not related to gangrene. Pyoderma gangrenosum is not ‘catching’ and cannot be transferred from or to another person by touching or in any other way.
What causes pyoderma gangrenosum?
For about half of the people with pyoderma gangrenosum there are no known reasons for it. It may start after minor skin damage or injury. Sometimes other conditions may be associated with pyoderma gangrenosum, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), arthritis or certain blood disorders. It is important to know that having pyoderma gangrenosum does not mean that you have these diseases.
What does pyoderma gangrenosum look like?
Pyoderma gangrenosum usually occurs in young and middle-aged adults but the way it looks can vary from person to person. It may start as a small pimple, red bump or blood-blister. The skin then breaks down resulting in an ulcer which often oozes fluid. The ulcer can enlarge rapidly. The edge of the ulcer may look purplish. The most common places where pyoderma gangrenosum occurs are the legs, although it can be found anywhere on the body. Sometimes it may occur around the site of a stoma (e.g. colostomy), or in a surgical wound.
What are the symptoms of pyoderma gangrenosum?
In pyoderma gangrenosum, there is usually a single large ulcer but occasionally there may be multiple ulcers. Ulcers may become infected, oozing fluid or pus. Pain or discomfort are common symptoms. Pyoderma gangrenosum is not cancer and does not lead to cancer.
How is pyoderma gangrenosum diagnosed?
There is no specific blood test for pyoderma gangrenosum. Certain conditions such as venous ulcers, inflammation of blood vessels, infection, injury, inflammatory disorders and cancer can look like pyoderma gangrenosum. This is why your doctor may take a sample of skin (biopsy) to examine under the microscope in a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. The wound should also be swabbed and cultured for bacteria to rule out associated infection. Your doctor may also request blood tests to check for conditions that may be associated with pyoderma gangrenosum.
It is not hereditary and is not passed from parents to sons or daughters.
To find out about available treatments please visit this page on the website of the British Association of Dermatologists.