Skin hydration and transepidermal water loss in patients with a history of sulfur mustard contact: a case–control study
Background Skin lesions are among the most common complications of contact with sulfur mustard.
Objective This study was aimed to measure skin water content and transepidermal water loss (TEWL) in patients with a history of sulfur mustard contact.
Methods Three hundred ten male participants were included in this study: 87 (28.1%) sulfur mustard–exposed patients with current skin lesions (group 1), 71 (22.9%) sulfur mustard–exposed patients without skin lesions (group 2), 78 (25.2%) patients with dermatitis (group 3) and 74 (23.8%) normal controls (group 4) The water content and TEWL of skin was measured at four different locations of the body: forehead, suprasternal, palm and dorsum of hand. Nonparametric statistical tests (Kruskal–Wallis) were used to compare the four groups, and P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
Results The mean age of participants were 44.0 ± 6.7, 41.9 ± 5.9, 43.8 ± 9.3 and 44.8 ± 8.9 years in groups 1 to 4, respectively (P = 0.146). Xerosis, post-lesional hyperpigmentation and lichenification were significantly more common in either sulfur mustard–exposed participants or non-exposed participants with dermatitis (P < 0.05). Skin hydration was higher in subjects with sulfur mustard contact than in non-injured participants (P < 0.05) in the dorsum and palm of hands and forehead. TEWL was significantly higher in participants only in suprasternal area and dorsum of hand.
Conclusion Contact with sulfur mustard agent can alter biophysical properties of the skin-especially the function of stratum corneum as a barrier to water loss-several years after exposure.