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Willan's lepra

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A chronic, occasionally acute inflammatory disease of the skin characterized by a silvery-white scaling eruption of salmon-red, well-demarcated lesions that involve mainly the scalp and the extensor surfaces of the limbs. The guttate form is confined to the trunk and proximal extremities; and the generalized type involves the entire body, presenting erythema. Although the condition may occur at any age, it is rare before the fourth year and is observed most frequently at puberty or menopause. Females are more often affected. Transmission appears to be autosomal dominant.

The disease was first described by ancient Greeks and writers in Rome. Aulus (Aurelius) Cornelius Celsus (40-50 AD) described it as impetigo, the Latin word for “attack”. The first modern descriptions were by Willan in 1808 and Samuel Plumbe in 1824. The eponymic designation of this dermatologic condition, best known as "psoriasis", was proposed by Russel in 1950.

We thank Volker Paech, Bochum, Germany, for information submitted.


  • R. Willan:
    Description and Treatment of Cutaneous Diseases.
    London, J. Johnson, 1796-1808. Volume 1, pp 152-188.
  • S. Plumbe:
    A Practical Treatise on Diseases of the Skin. London, Underwood, 1824.

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