Austrian dermatologists at the Rudolfstiftung Hospital in Vienna have developed a therapy for the rare skin disease livedoid vasculitis through the use of high doses of Immunoglobulin G (IgG) via infusion.
Head of the skin department at the hospital Klemens Rappersberger said only an estimated 150 to 200 people in Austria had the rare or "orphan" disease. Given that it is incurable however, sufferers have till now been prone to chronic recurrent relapses, the Austria Press Agency reported Wednesday.
The patients are subject to considerable problems caused by the disease, such as initially through closure or blockage of small arteries and arterioles in the skin, particularly in the lower legs and feet, leading to skin "infarcts" -- tissue that is dying or dead due to lack of oxygen caused by blood supply deprivation.
Rappersberger said following this, deep and very painful ulcers can develop that heal slowly, leaving patients ill for weeks, in enormous pain, and their quality of life reduced drastically.
The Viennese team first came across the possibility of using high-dose IgG infusions around 2000, as it had successfully been used for a number of congenital immunodeficiency diseases and autoimmune dieases.
They subsequently began a study over 12 years during which 11 patients were given the high-dose IgG treatment. Rappersberger said the results of the study showed significant statistical improvement in patients and a success rate of up to 90 percent, with relapses reduced significantly, sometimes for years, and persistent ulcers less severe and healed more quickly.
He said the disease is now "excellently treatable," with sufferers for the most part able to lead a normal life again aside from two-to-three-day hospital stays every four to 12 weeks for the infusions, which can also be done on weekends.
He added however that the therapy must be constantly continued.