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Dermatology Online Journal

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Ashy dermatosis: a review


Ashy dermatosis is characterized by asymptomatic, symmetrically-distributed, gray-colored macules located on the trunk, neck, face, and upper extremities. The condition occurs most commonly in patients with Fitzpatrick phototype III-V skin. The etiology is unknown, but drug ingestion, infection, and genetic factors have been suggested to elicit ashy dermatosis. No gold standard treatments have been established yet. The most successful treatment to date has been clofazimine, although topical tacrolimus, oral dapsone, narrowband ultraviolet light B phototherapy, and isotretinoin have shown treatment success. Ashy dermatosis is primarily a cosmetic concern, but can be a very distressing condition, especially for dark skinned individuals. Therefore, an increase in clinician awareness and more studies are needed to further understand the etiology and treatment options for this disease. This review serves as a single source for clinicians to stay up-to-date regarding the history, clinical presentation, histology, pathogenesis, differential diagnosis, and management options for ashy dermatosis. It also suggests an alternative name that more appropriately encompasses the clinical and histopathologic features, while acknowledging our lack of understanding of its etiology: macular hyperpigmentation of indeterminate etiology.

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