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Pretibial Myxedema Medication

  • Author: Ranjodh Singh Gill, MD, FACP, CCD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
Updated: Feb 02, 2016

Medication Summary

Various medical treatments, including plasmapheresis and cytotoxic therapy, have been tried, but the efficacy of these therapies in pretibial myxedema (PTM)  is unproven. Intralesional or topical therapy with corticosteroids is currently the only treatment that offers demonstrated efficacy.[11, 12] Systemic use should be avoided because of undesirable adverse effects.

Combinations reported as helpful include oral pentoxifylline and topical clobetasol propionate ointment[13, 14] and pentoxifylline with intralesional triamcinolone acetonide.[15]

Newer treatment regimens that are promising but require further investigation include octreotide, a somatostatin analog, and high-dose intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).[16] The basis for use of octreotide stems from research of refractory PTM patients who had increased expression of insulinlike growth factor-1 receptor on up-regulated fibroblasts. Intralesional injections of octreotide have led to decreased amounts of hyaluronic acid within the lesion. Some studies report success with weekly injections, and patients have remained symptom free for up to 15 months[17, 18] ; however, others do not.[19] Surgical removal is generally ill advised because scarring may worsen dermopathy; however, at least one patient with thick plaques prior to surgical shaving of the lesion and daily octreotide injections for 6 months did not have recurrence after 9 years of surveillance.[20]

The mongraphs below are a few examples of topical preparations available (in order of decreasing potency).[21, 22]



Class Summary

These agents are applied topically under an occlusive dressing, and they provide symptomatic relief in many patients. A variety of ointments, creams, and gels are available. The following are a few examples of topical preparations available (in order of decreasing potency).

Betamethasone topical (Diprolene)


Topical betamethasone is for inflammatory dermatoses responsive to steroids. It decreases inflammation by suppressing the migration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes and reversing capillary permeability. It affects the production of lymphokines and has an inhibitory effect on Langerhans cells. Use 0.05% cream or ointment. Betamethasone has similar potency to clobetasol and halobetasol.

Fluocinonide (Fluonex, Lidex)


Fluocinonide is a high-potency topical corticosteroid that inhibits cell proliferation; it is immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory. Use 0.05% ointment or gel. Fluocinonide has similar potency to mometasone and fluticasone.

Hydrocortisone topical (LactiCare HC, Westcort, Dermacort, DermaGel, Cortaid)


Topical hydrocortisone is an adrenocorticosteroid derivative suitable for application to skin or external mucous membranes. It has mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid effects resulting in anti-inflammatory activity.

Triamcinolone topical (Kenalog)


Topical triamcinolone is for inflammatory dermatoses responsive to steroids; it decreases inflammation by suppressing the migration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes and reversing capillary permeability. Use 0.1% ointment.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Ranjodh Singh Gill, MD, FACP, CCD Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center; Consulting Staff, Department of Internal Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University Health System

Ranjodh Singh Gill, MD, FACP, CCD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, American College of Physicians, Endocrine Society, International Society for Clinical Densitometry, Medical Society of Virginia, North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association, Richmond Academy of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

David F Butler, MD Section Chief of Dermatology, Central Texas Veterans Healthcare System; Professor of Dermatology, Texas A&M University College of Medicine; Founding Chair, Department of Dermatology, Scott and White Clinic

David F Butler, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association, Alpha Omega Alpha, Association of Military Dermatologists, American Academy of Dermatology, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American Society for MOHS Surgery, Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Christen M Mowad, MD Professor, Department of Dermatology, Geisinger Medical Center

Christen M Mowad, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, Noah Worcester Dermatological Society, Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology, American Academy of Dermatology, Phi Beta Kappa

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Dirk M Elston, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Gregory J Raugi, MD, PhD Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Dermatology, University of Washington at Seattle School of Medicine; Chief, Dermatology Section, Primary and Specialty Care Service, Veterans Administration Medical Center of Seattle

Gregory J Raugi, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

George E vonHilsheimer, MD Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; Chief, Staff Dermatologist, Department of Medicine, Martin Army Community Hospital, Fort Benning, Georgia

George E vonHilsheimer, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, Association of Military Dermatologists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Kathryn K Garner, MD Staff Physician, Family Health Clinic, Ehrling Bergquist Clinic, Offutt AFB, NE

Kathryn K Garner, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, Uniformed Services Academy of Family Physicians

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Purnima Sau, MD Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Dermatology, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Laurel R Stearns, DO ResidentPhysician, Department of Dermatology, National Capital Consortium

Laurel R Stearns, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology and Association of Military Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Bilateral erythematous infiltrative plaques in the pretibial areas.
Deposition of mucin in the reticular dermis (hematoxylin and eosin stain, original magnification X25).
Blue staining of mucin with colloidal iron stain (original magnification X25).
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