What is Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2018
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Nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy is a skin condition that’s usually associated with kidney disease. People who suffer with the condition have swelling in the skin, along with changes to its texture and a feeling of tightness. For most people, it is a progressive disorder, and because it is so rare, there are many aspects that aren’t well-understood. Doctors are still generally trying to figure out the best treatment approach for nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy, and different patients seem to respond better to different kinds of therapy.

In terms of symptoms, nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy generally starts with the aforementioned skin swelling, and this can take several weeks to fully form. Eventually, patients may develop bumps on the skin along with a hardening of the surface of the skin. Some people describe the skin as having a wood-like texture. There is often pain, and the thickening of the skin can make it difficult for people to maneuver.

Some people are partially immobilized by nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy, and they may not be able to extend their joints properly. This is partly due to the skin issue and partly due to possible internal effects, including the potential shrinking of muscle tissues. It is also possible for the disease to damage certain internal organs.


The cause of nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy is still a mystery. People with kidney disease are at a higher risk of developing the disorder, but other than that, it has no particular association with any age groups or any other specific demographics. One possible cause is an agent called gadolinium, which is frequently used in the performance of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests to help make things visible. Class action lawsuits have been put together in response to this possible connection, but it is still disputed.

Doctors normally diagnose nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy by doing a skin biopsy. It has some similarities to several other disorders, including eosinophilic fasciitis and scleredema systemic sclerosis. These similarities and the overall rarity of the disease can sometimes cause doctors to misdiagnosis it, at least temporarily. The only consistent treatment method is physical therapy, which can help slow down the loss of mobility. Other methods are also being tried, including several drugs and therapies, but there is generally no consistent approach that has shown reliable success.

The disease is not fatal on its own, but the kidney disease that seems to be associated with it sometimes is. Nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy can sometimes go away suddenly, but most patients get gradually worse over time, and most of them end up with very restricted mobility. The disease is generally rare, and it wasn’t described until 1997, although it is still generally unclear whether it was present before that time without being recognized.



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