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Raj Singh MD
May 28, 2024

Progesterone Induced Dermatitis: Symptoms and Treatments

Progesterone Induced Dermatitis

Autoimmune progesterone dermatitis (APD) is a unique hormonal rash triggered by the body’s reaction to its progesterone during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. This condition, marked by symptoms of autoimmune progesterone dermatitis, manifests primarily in young adult women and can vary greatly in its presentation, from progesterone rash pictures to progesterone hypersensitivity rash. Insight into the demographics of APD highlights its primary affectation in individuals around the age of 27.3 years, underscoring the need for awareness and understanding within this population group. This article aims to demystify autoimmune progesterone dermatitis, exploring its symptoms, diagnostic pathways, and available treatment options to provide a comprehensive overview for those impacted by this challenging condition.

Understanding Progesterone Induced Dermatitis

Autoimmune Progesterone Dermatitis (APD), also known as Progesterone Induced Dermatitis (PID), is characterized by a hypersensitivity reaction to the cyclic variations of progesterone during the luteal phase of a woman's menstrual cycle.

The luteal phase is an important stage in a woman's menstrual cycle. It occurs after ovulation and before the start of the next period. During this phase, the ruptured follicle from which the egg was released transforms into a structure called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum produces progesterone, a hormone that prepares the uterus for possible pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur, the corpus luteum eventually breaks down, leading to a decrease in progesterone levels. This decline triggers the shedding of the uterine lining, resulting in menstruation.

This rare condition predominantly impacts young adult women, typically presenting around the average age of 27.3 years, though it has been observed in adolescents post-menarche and in older premenopausal women.

Clinical Presentation and Symptoms

  1. Timing and Appearance of Rash: The rash associated with APD usually manifests 3-4 days before menstruation, coinciding with the peak in progesterone levels, and resolves shortly after menstruation begins.
  2. Variability of Symptoms: Symptoms can range from mild forms like urticaria and dermatitis to severe reactions including anaphylaxis and Stevens-Johnson-like syndrome. Noncutaneous symptoms such as asthma and severe anaphylactic reactions have also been reported.
  3. Reproductive Implications: There is evidence suggesting that APD might affect fertility, as autoantibodies to progesterone and 17a-hydroxyprogesterone have been found in women with recurrent miscarriages.

Pathogenesis and Hypotheses

  • Hormonal Sensitivity: The primary hypothesis centers around a hypersensitivity reaction to endogenous progesterone, exacerbated by exogenous sources or cross-sensitization with structurally similar corticosteroids.
  • Immune System Involvement: The immune system's role is significant, affecting various stages of female reproduction through mechanisms like delayed hypersensitivity reactions and immune complex-mediated theories.

Differential Diagnosis

Due to its diverse manifestations, PID is often mistaken for other dermatological conditions. Accurate diagnosis necessitates a thorough understanding and consideration of differential diagnoses by both gynecologists and dermatologists.

This comprehensive approach underscores the complexity of PID/APD and the necessity for targeted diagnostic and therapeutic strategies to manage this challenging condition effectively.

Diagnosing Progesterone Induced Dermatitis

Initial Diagnostic Approach

The diagnosis of Autoimmune Progesterone Dermatitis (APD) begins with a detailed clinical history and physical examination. This initial step is crucial to understanding the timing and nature of the symptoms in relation to the menstrual cycle.

Diagnostic Criteria and Testing

  1. Clinical Criteria: Diagnosis often relies on the presence of skin lesions that appear with the onset of the menstrual cycle and improve with progesterone inhibition therapies.
  2. Intradermal Testing: While not standardized, intradermal tests with progesterone are used to observe the skin's reaction to direct progesterone exposure. A positive test supports the diagnosis but should be interpreted with caution due to variability in test execution and response.
  3. Progesterone Challenge: Reproducing the rash through intramuscular injection of progesterone or by suppression of ovulation can be indicative of APD. This method helps in confirming the hypersensitivity to progesterone.

Differential Diagnosis

It is essential to distinguish APD from other conditions that could mimic its symptoms:

  • Drug Eruptions: These can cause similar skin reactions but are linked to medication intake.
  • Spontaneous Urticaria and Atopic Dermatitis: These conditions may also flare premenstrually but lack the hormonal trigger specific to APD.
  • Estrogen Dermatitis: Though less common, this condition presents similarly but is triggered by estrogen, not progesterone.

Advanced Diagnostic Techniques

For more complex cases, additional tests may include:

  • Skin Prick and Patch Tests: These can help in identifying specific allergens and confirming hypersensitivity.
  • Serum Immunoglobulin E (sIgE) Levels and In Vitro Assays: These tests can provide insights into the immune response mechanisms involved in APD.

By employing a combination of these diagnostic strategies, healthcare providers can accurately identify APD, differentiate it from other dermatological conditions, and tailor an effective treatment plan.

Treatment Options for Progesterone Induced Dermatitis

Primary Treatment Approaches

  1. Oral Contraceptives: The cornerstone of managing Autoimmune Progesterone Dermatitis (APD) is the use of oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) that suppress ovulation and consequently reduce progesterone levels.
  2. GnRH Agonists and 17-α-alkylated Steroids: These are employed to inhibit the ovarian cycle further, aiding in symptom control.
  3. Danazol and Tamoxifen: Used selectively, these medications help modulate immune responses and hormonal balances.

Supportive Care and Symptom Management

  • Corticosteroids and Antihistamines: Both oral and topical forms are utilized to alleviate the inflammatory and allergic manifestations of APD.
  • Omalizumab: This treatment is considered for patients with severe symptoms or those who do not respond to conventional therapies.

Surgical and Desensitization Options

  • Bilateral Salpingo-oophorectomy: In severe cases, the removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes can be considered to permanently reduce progesterone levels.
  • Progesterone Desensitization: This can be achieved through protocols involving injections or intravaginal applications, particularly beneficial for patients needing to undergo treatments like IVF.

Tailored Treatment Strategies

  • Individual Assessment: Treatment depends significantly on the patient's specific symptoms and the severity of their condition.
  • Combined Approaches: Often, a combination of hormonal therapy, immune-modulating drugs, and supportive treatments yields the best outcomes.

These treatment strategies are designed to manage symptoms effectively while addressing the underlying hormonal sensitivities characteristic of APD. Each patient’s treatment plan is customized, taking into account their unique medical history and symptomatology to optimize health outcomes.

Prevention and Management Strategies

Avoidance of Exogenous Progestogens

  1. Pregnancy Considerations: Women with autoimmune progesterone dermatitis (APD) are advised to cautiously consider the implications of pregnancy, as symptoms can exacerbate due to naturally increased progesterone levels.
  2. Contraceptive Choices: It is crucial for women with APD to avoid exogenous progestogens, including certain types of oral contraceptive pills and fertility treatments that can trigger or worsen symptoms.

Regular Medical Consultations

  • Dermatologist Check-ups: Regular appointments with a dermatologist are essential for monitoring the progression of APD. These check-ups help in adjusting treatment plans as necessary to manage the condition effectively.


Through the exploration of autoimmune progesterone dermatitis (APD), we have delved into its unique manifestations, ranging from mild skin irritations to severe systemic reactions, highlighting the complexity and diversity of this condition. The elucidation of its symptoms, alongside a structured approach towards diagnosis and differentiation from other dermatoses, underscores the necessity for awareness and precision in the clinical setting. This discussion not only reinforces the significance of understanding the hormonal interplay in allergic reactions but also accentuates the critical role of targeted therapies in managing APD effectively.

Adopting tailored treatment regimens and considering preventive strategies, such as the careful selection of contraceptives and the potential for desensitization protocols, showcases the multifaceted approach required to mitigate the challenges posed by APD. Such strategies underscore the importance of a collaborative patient-provider relationship in navigating this condition’s complexities. Through continued research and clinical insight, there lies hope for more refined treatments and management strategies, ultimately improving the quality of life for those affected by autoimmune progesterone dermatitis.


What are the treatment options for autoimmune progesterone dermatitis (APD)? To manage autoimmune progesterone dermatitis, one may consider hormone therapy aimed at suppressing ovulation, thus inhibiting the production of progesterone. In some cases, a surgical procedure known as a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, which involves the removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes, may be necessary to alleviate symptoms by preventing an autoimmune response.

How can a progesterone-induced skin rash be managed? Although the precise cause remains unclear, it is believed to be related to a hypersensitivity or autoimmune reaction to a woman's own progesterone. Treatment options vary based on the severity of the condition and may include the application of topical medications, systemic corticosteroids, hormone therapy to limit progesterone production, or, in some instances, the surgical removal of the ovaries.

What are the ways to address progesterone hypersensitivity? Progesterone hypersensitivity can be addressed using antihistamines or corticosteroids to manage symptoms. Therapies that prevent ovulation may also be beneficial. Conditions such as catamenial dermatosis and anaphylaxis might respond well to hormonal treatments. In rare cases, surgical intervention to remove the ovaries and uterus may be considered.

How can one identify a hormone-related rash? Distinguishing between eczema triggered by hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and a hormone-related rash, also known as progesterone dermatitis, can be challenging. Both conditions present with red, irritated patches and papules and typically occur in sync with hormonal fluctuations, such as those experienced during menstruation.

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