Grover’s Disease

Medically reviewed by Daniel Murrell, MD on October 25, 2017Written by Taylor Griffith on October 25, 2017

What is Grover’s disease?

Grover’s disease is a rare skin condition. Most people with this condition get red, itchy spots, but others get blisters. This main symptom is nicknamed “Grover’s rash.” The rash normally occurs on the midsection. It most frequently occurs in men 40 and older.

The cause of this condition is unknown. It can usually be treated using topical medications, but sometimes requires oral medication, injections, or light therapy to treat it.

Grover’s disease is also called transient acantholytic dermatosis. “Transient” means that it goes away over time. Some people, however, experience multiple outbreaks.

Symptoms of Grover’s rash

The most common symptom of Grover’s disease is the small, round, or oval red bumps that form on the skin. They’re typically firm and raised.

You may also see the appearance of blisters. These typically have a red border and are filled with a watery liquid.

Both the bumps and blisters appear in groups on the chest, neck, and back. This rash will likely itch severely, although not everyone experiences itching.

What causes Grover’s disease?

Dermatologists have studied skin cells under a microscope to understand how Grover’s disease happens. The outermost layer of skin is called the horny layer. People with Grover’s disease have an abnormal horny layer that disrupts how the skin cells attach to each other. When the skin cells detach (a process called lysis), bumps or blisters form.

Scientists don’t know for sure what causes this abnormality. Some doctors believe it’s caused by excessive environmental damage to the skin that’s occurred over many years. Other doctors believe excessive heat and sweating causes Grover’s disease. This is because some people first notice a breakout after using steam baths or hot tubs.

One recorded case of Grover’s disease has been linked back to, or at least co-occurred alongside, skin parasites.

Diagnosing Grover’s disease

A dermatologist can diagnose Grover’s disease. This type of doctor specializes in skin conditions. Most people end up going to a dermatologist because of the itchy rash that appears. You can also talk remotely to a dermatologist from a telemedicine site. Here’s our list for the best telemedicine apps of the year.

It’s fairly easy for your dermatologist to diagnose Grover’s disease based on the look of your skin. To be sure, they’ll probably want to look at it under a microscope. To do this, they’ll take a shave skin biopsy.

Treating Grover’s disease

There are several different ways to treat Grover’s disease based on the severity of the condition.

If you have a minor outbreak that doesn’t itch or is confined to a small area, you may be able to treat it with cream. Your dermatologist will prescribe you a cortisone cream.

Larger outbreaks that itch and cover the entire trunk can typically be treated using oral medication. Your dermatologist may prescribe the antibiotic tetracycline or Accutane, a popular acne treatment drug, for one to three months. They may also give you antihistamines to stop the itching. This treatment method may be their first choice if you’ve experienced outbreaks of Grover’s rash in the past.

If these treatments don’t work, this means you have a more severe case of Grover’s disease that needs further treatment. Treatment for severe cases typically includes:

  • retinoid pills
  • antifungal medication
  • cortisone injections
  • PUVA phototherapy
  • topical application of selenium sulfide

PUVA phototherapy is often used on psoriasis, but can also be used to treat severe cases of Grover’s. First, you’ll take psoralen pills, which make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light. Then you’ll stand in a light box to undergo UV radiation. This treatment occurs twice or three times per week for roughly 12 weeks.

What’s the outlook?

Though there isn’t a known cause for Grover’s disease, it does go away. Following a correct diagnosis, most cases last 6 to 12 months. Staying in contact with your dermatologist is key to ensuring your symptoms clear up and don’t return.

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