For S, to whom this article is dedicated
by Valencia Long, MBBS
Dermatology is graced by many French terms that resonate in everyday practice. Here are some examples, presented as a tribute to the great French teachers and pioneers of dermatology. May this note also serve as an expression of solidarity with the people of France in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attack in Paris, November 13, 2015.
The term ‘plaque’ is an elevated, circumscribed lesion used to describe conditions such as psoriasis and sarcoidosis. It is also used in “parapsoriasis en plaque”, which may be considered related to patch stage mycosis fungoides.
“Collarette” means small French collar and refers to the fine scales at the peripheries of lesions in many conditions notably, pityriasis rosea, keratolysis exfoliativa and candida.
“Carcinoma en cuirasse” is a form of breast cancer where the overlying skin is indurated reminiscent of the armour of a calvry solider (cuirassier). The “Peau d’orange” appearance of this breast carcinoma is also used to describe pretibial myxedema, Morbihan’s disease, and nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. Mottling with “peau d’orange” color changes of the retinal pigment epithelium is seen in pseudoxanthoma elasticum.
“Tache” means spot in French. “Tache bleuâtre” or “maculae cerulae” is seen in a tick bite or typhoid fever. “Tache noir” describes the black eschar of rickettsial disease or “boutounesse fever”. “Tache cérébrale” is produced by drawing the nail across the skin in meningitis1. When the superficial scales of psoriasis are removed via curettage, a characteristic coherence reminds one of a scratched wax candle, or the “signe de la tache de bougie”.
“Café au lait” spots are seen in neurofibromatosis and McCune Albright’s syndrome. “Eczéma Craquelé” is also referred as asteatotic eczema in the elderly. In contrast, “acne excoriée des jeunes filles”, which means the scratched acne of young girls, happens in adolescent acne.
“Talon noir” happens in young athletes who sustain small traumatic heel haemorrhages, and may be confused with melanoma. “L’homme rouge” refers to diffuse, intensely pruritic eczematoid eruption of Sézary syndrome. Factitial panniculitis2 resulting from self-injection of foreign material was described initially as “L’oedème bleu” or “oedème hystérique”. “Nevus bleu” means blue nevus. “Atrophie blanche” appears as ivory-white stellate scars seen in livedoid vasculitis or chronic venous insufficiency.
“Nail en racquette” is a congenital deformity associated with Brooke-Spiegler syndrome3 The “en coup de sabre” type of morphea is a characteristic linear morphea of the head. “Perlèche” is derived from pourlècher meaning “to lick one’s lips” and describes angular cheilitis. “Berloque dermatitis” is phytophotodermatitis caused by the bergamot oil derived from Citrus bergamia. “Berloque” is French for pendant.
“Mycosis fungoides d’ emblee” is a rare variant of tumors without preceding plaques or patches where “D’emblée” refers to “from the onset” in French. “En demicuirasse” refers to the characteristic distribution of syringomas on the ventral trunk.
- Martin GI. The significance of tâche cérébrale in neonatal meningitis. J Pediatr. 1975 Aug;87(2):321-2.
- Mannion SJ, Mehta JS, Spencer JD. Oedème bleu. J R Soc Med. 1998 Sep; 91(9): 491–492.
- Ditre CM, Howe NR. Surgical anatomy of the nail unit. J Dermatol Surg Oncol. 1992;18:665-71