What is Mycosis Fungoides?

Mycosis fungoides is a type of lymphoma. The disease often infects the skin, but it can spread to various other parts of the body including the blood and internal organs with varying degrees of severity. A large majority of the patients with mycosis fungoides will generally have to live with the disease for the rest of their lives as there are no real known cures. One can only attempt to treat the symptoms and to alleviate some of the complications that are associated with it.

Why is it Called Mycosis Fungoides?

The name ‘mycosis fungoides’ comes from a very specific source. The doctor who first documented the disease mycosis fungoides in a patient was a French doctor named Jean Luis Marc Alibert. He called it mycosis fungoides because of the similarity of the spots on the skin to raised mushrooms. So, mycosis fungoides translates to suggest a mushroom-like fungal disease. The very first case of the disease was documneted in 1806 and the name that Dr. Alibert gave it stuck as mycosis fungoides.

Causes of Mycosis Fungoides in Humans

The exact cause of mycosis fungoides is not known but several conclusions have been made that the disease stems from non-genetic or hereditary causes. There is at least one case that may disprove this theory as it may show that it has possible genetic links. This disease is more common in males than in females and is seen in people over 20 years of age. The most common group of people affected by mycosis fungoides are those in their mid 40s and 50s and those who suffer from tumors, erythroderma or leukemia. These conditions are known to be most often paired with mycosis fungoides.

Simple tests can be done on biopsies of the affected skin to determine whether or not a patient has mycosis fungoides. If a patient does not fit the age group in which mycosis fungoides is most common, a doctor may overlook the condition and misdiagnose it. It is important to request for more tests to check for mycosis fungoides if you suspect that you may have it. Even if the doctor does not agree with your suspicion, he /she will have to conduct more tests and screening to rule out the possibility of the patient having mycosis fungoides and other related lymphoma type diseases.

Possible Symptoms and Related Complications

There are many symptoms and related complications which may result in the progress of the disease at an accelerated rate. The following  are known to be some of the most common and related symptoms that are found to be a part of mycosis fungoides:

  • tumors
  • patches
  • lesions
  • itching

Tumors – Since this is a type of lymphoma, tumors are a very significant warning sign to look out for this and many other diseases that may be affecting the body. Usually they are just an indicator and cannot really determine whether or not the patient has mycosis fungoides, as biopsies of the tumors may not even reveal any information regarding the mycosis fungoides condition.

Patches – One of the most common indicators are patches of skin that have discoloration, strange textures and more. This is most often confused with other common problems such as eczema or psoriasis but is quite different in reality. The patches are not sporadic and random but are often very unusual. Thus, compared to other skin conditions, they can easily be confused.

Lesions – The discolorations and damage to the skin from mycosis fungoides can be rather extensive. The best course of action in order to tell if the lesions are caused due to mycosis fungoides is to take a biopsy of the skin lesions and test them for the lymphoma type cells that would be present for  mycosis fungoides. Lesions can turn into nasty sores and ulcers if not taken care of properly. Some mycosis fungoides caused lesions will grow at a surprising rate and should be checked by a doctor. It is very important to have these symptoms thoroughly checked.

Itching – 20 percent of patients with mycosis fungoides will have severe itching bouts that can cause a great deal of discomfort. This often leads many doctors to think that it is just dry skin, eczema or psoriasis or similar skin condition. Severe itching with any of the other symptoms can be an indication of having mycosis fungoides.

There are also different stages that the patient might go through if he / she is suffering from mycosis fungoides. These stages are often classified as:

  • dermal
  • blood
  • organ

Each stage is associated with varying degrees of fatality. It is very important that patients with mycosis fungoides have themselves checked regularly to ensure that the disease has not progressed to a much more dangerous stage. It is a good idea to take some preventative measures and treatments to help reduce the chances of it progressing.

Treatments for Mycosis Fungoides

There is no set method to cure mycosis fungoides, and the treatments can yield different results. The treatments will usually try to prevent the spread of the lymphoma. The best course of action is to ask a doctor to see which of the following treatments may help control the spread of the disease or help to prevent the disease from worsening:

  • simple sunlight
  • ultraviolet treatment
  • topical steroids
  • systemic chemotherapies
  • local superficial radiotherapy
  • histone deacetylase inhibitor
  • skin electron beam radiation treatment
  • biological therapies

Simple Sunlight – Sunlight and its benefits such as vitamin D and calcium absorbency properties can help to increase the likelihood of increased health benefits which may help to propel the disease into remission. This therapy is very simple but must be controlled to help prevent secondary problems such as cancers of the skin.

Ultraviolet Treatments – Ultraviolet light is very potent and can have a large impact on the treatment of mycosis fungoides if it is reactive to the treatment. The ultraviolet light can cause the skin to be killed and newer skin to be formed, possibly removing some of the patches, lesions and other characteristic skin conditions of mycosis fungoides.

Topical Steroids – Steroids can help to reduce inflammation in an area as well as promote increased oxygen flow to the location with blood vessel expansion, making it possible to heal the effects of mycosis fungoides in the location. This is a very promising therapy option but one should also bear in mind that the use of steroids can have adverse side effects.

Systemic Chemotherapies – Chemotherapies have varying degrees of success and can sometimes help to remove all traces of the disease. This is one of the less desirable treatments as it causes severe poisoning of the system and can be very unpleasant, possibly shutting down organs and causing severe side effects which could even prove to be fatal in some instances.

Local Superficial Radiotherapy – Radiotherapy will cause radioactive elements to kill the mycosis fungoides, essentially removing it from a certain location. This treatment can have a wide range of possible outcomes and may actually impede the progress of the disease. However, it could also introduce new complications if not controlled properly.

Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor – This is a very promising treatment for many lymphoma afflictions. It has been used to try and treat mycosis fungoides and has shown a broad spectrum of success with several patients. It can help to stabilize the patient’s condition and impede the progress of the disease, even making it possible to send it into remission.

Skin Electron Beam Radiation Treatment – The treatment using electron beam radiation is effective like most radiation therapies. The difference with the electron beam radiation treatment is that it can be focused on a single area much more effectively, reducing the unnecessary damages of radiation on the rest of the body. It is important to look into the options available for skin electron beam radiation treatment as an alternative to traditional radiotherapies.

Biological Therapies – Options like interferons (animal proteins that battle disease) and retinoids (vitamin A treatments) can offer some possible relief and even remission of mycosis fungoides. These treatment options are simple to implement and can be changed to suit the individual needs of each patient.

The Outlook for Patients with Mycosis Fungoides

About half of the people who are affected with the complications of mycosis fungoides will not die, but the disease can become more than a superficial problem. When the disease spreads to the other portions of the body such as the blood or organ tissues, it can cause severe impairment of the body’s ability to fight off infections. What is worse is that it can even progress to a higher level of lymphoma. Mycosis fungoides can be forced into remission or stabilization, but it is indefinite and can definitely come back if the patient does not take appropriate measures to control the problem. Patients that show some of the prominent symptoms, should ask their doctors to try running some more tests to determine whether or not they are suffering from the disease.