Incontinentia Pigmenti

Clinical Characteristics
Ocular Features: 

This is primarily a disorder of skin, teeth, hair, and the central nervous system but 35% of patients have important ocular features.  The iris is variably atrophic and has pigmentary anomalies often with posterior synechiae.  Nystagmus, strabismus, and limited vision are often present.  The majority (up to 90%) of individuals have significant retinal disease.  The retinal vascular pattern is anomalous with tortuosity in some areas and absence of vessels in others.  Preretinal fibrosis and retinal detachments may suggest the presence of a retinoblastoma.  Cataracts are common in patients who have a retinal detachment and some patients have microphthalmia. The retinal pigment epithelium is often abnormal with various-sized patches of sharply demarcated depigmentation.  Cases with uveitis, papillitis and chorioretinitis have been observed and it has been suggested that the observed retinal and choroidal changes result from prior inflammatory disease, perhaps even occurring in utero. There is a great deal of asymmetry in the clinical findings in the two eyes.

Systemic Features: 

Skin changes consisting of erythematous eruptions in a linear pattern are often present at birth and this may be followed by a verrucous stage.  The acute, early findings of inflammatory disease eventually subside, ultimately resulting in pigmentary changes that appear in a 'marbled pattern' in young adults.  Hypodontia and anodontia may be present.  Alopecia and CNS abnormalities are found in nearly half of patients.  Skeletal and structural deformities are common in patients with severe neurological deficits.  The only sign of this disorder in adult women may be a whorled pattern of scarring alopecia.

As many as 30% of patients have neurological features which may be present in the neonatal period.  Seizures of various types occur in 30% of patients.  MRI findings include periventricular and subcortical white matter changes, as well as corpus callosum hypoplasia, cerebral atrophy, and cerebellar hypoplasia.



The majority of evidence suggests that this is an X-linked dominant disorder with lethality in males although sporadic cases occur.  The mutation occurs as a genomic rearrangement of the IKK-gamma gene, also known as NEMO (IKBKG) located at Xq28.  There is evidence from skin cultures that cells with the mutant X chromosome inactivated are preferentially viable.  It has been proposed that cells with the mutant bearing X chromosome as the active one are gradually replaced by those in which the normal X chromosome is active accounting for the post-natal course of the skin disease.

Treatment Options: 

No treatment for the generalized disorder is available although ocular surgery might be beneficial in rare cases with cataracts and detachments.

Article Title: 


Mariath LM, Santa Maria FD, Poziomczyk CS, Travi GM, Wachholz GE, De Souza SR, Kiszewski AE, Schuler-Faccini L. Intrafamilial clinical variability in four families with incontinentia pigmenti. Am J Med Genet A. 2018 Aug 27. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.40497. [Epub ahead of print].

PubMedID: 30151858

Popli U, Yesudian PD. Whorled Scarring Alopecia - The Only Adult Marker of Incontinentia Pigmenti. Int J Trichology. 2018 Jan-Feb;10(1):24-25.

PubMedID: 29440854

Swinney CC, Han DP, Karth PA. Incontinentia Pigmenti: A Comprehensive Review and Update. Ophthalmic Surg Lasers Imaging Retina. 2015 Jun 1;46(6):650-7.

PubMedID: 26114846

Chen CJ, Han IC, Tian J, Munoz B, Goldberg MF. Extended Follow-up of Treated and Untreated Retinopathy in Incontinentia Pigmenti: Analysis of Peripheral Vascular Changes and Incidence of Retinal Detachment. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2015 May;133(5):542-8.

PubMedID: 25695859

Meuwissen ME, Mancini GM. Neurological findings in incontinentia pigmenti; a review. Eur J Med Genet. 2012 May 4. [Epub ahead of print]

PubMedID: 22564885

Spallone A. Incontinentia pigmenti (Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome): seven case reports from one family. Br J Ophthalmol. 1987 Aug;71(8):629-34. PubMed PMID: 3115288.

PubMedID: 3115288

Francois J. Incontinentia pigmenti (Bloch-Sulzberger syndrome) and retinal changes. Br J Ophthalmol. 1984 Jan;68(1):19-25.

PubMedID: 6689930