Indexed with PubMed and Science Citation Index (E) 
Users online: 2390 
     Home | Feedback | Login 
About Current Issue Archive Ahead of print Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe What's New Contact  
  Navigate here 
   Next article
   Previous article 
   Table of Contents
 Resource links
   Similar in PUBMED
    Search Pubmed for
    Search in Google Scholar for
  Related articles
   Article in PDF (130 KB)
   Citation Manager
   Access Statistics
   Reader Comments
   Email Alert *
   Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
   Case report
   Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded206    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 3    

Recommend this journal


Year : 2006  |  Volume : 72  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 367-369

Leg ulcers due to hyperhomocysteinemia

Department of Dermatology, Manipal Hospital, Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
D S Krupa Shankar
Department of Dermatology, Manipal Hospital, 98 Rustom Bagh, Airport Road, Bangalore-560 017, Karnataka
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0378-6323.27755

Rights and Permissions


Chronic leg ulcers are rare in young adults and generally indicate a vascular cause. We report a case of a 26-year-old man with leg ulcers of eight months duration. Doppler study indicated venous incompetence and a postphlebitic limb. However, as the distribution and number of ulcers was not consistent with stasis alone and no features of collagen vascular disease were noted, a hyperviscosity state was considered and confirmed with significantly elevated homocysteine level in the serum. Administration of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12, trimethyl-glycine, mecobalamine, folic acid and povidone iodine dressings with culture-directed antibiotic therapy led to a satisfactory healing of ulcers over a period of one month. Hyperhomocysteinemia must be considered in the differential diagnosis of leg ulcers in young individuals.

Keywords: Hyperhomocysteinemia, Hyperviscosity syndrome

How to cite this article:
Krupa Shankar D S, Akhib S. Leg ulcers due to hyperhomocysteinemia. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2006;72:367-9

How to cite this URL:
Krupa Shankar D S, Akhib S. Leg ulcers due to hyperhomocysteinemia. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol [serial online] 2006 [cited 2020 Oct 20];72:367-9. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Hyperhomocysteinemia is a disorder of methionine metabolism and its metabolites (homocysteine, homocysteine-cysteine complex and others). The accumulation of homocysteine and its metabolites is caused by disruption of any of the three interrelated pathways of methionine metabolism. Deficiency in the cystathionine B-synthase (CBS) enzyme, defective methylcobalamin synthesis or abnormality in methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase leads to accumulation of homocysteine in blood.

  Case report Top

A 26-year-old businessman presented with multiple episodes of ulcerations over the left leg during the last 14 months. After the first episode 14 months back he was in remission for six months. The ulcers began on the dorsum of the left foot, medial malleoli-medial aspect of the knee and showed purulent discharge at all times. He was treated by a dermatologist with topical betamethasone and topical beclomethasone dipropionate, clotrimazole, neomycin and oral antibiotics. He had a Doppler study carried out at the age of 19 years and was diagnosed to have deep vein thrombosis and treated with acenocoumarol for one year.

On examination, the patient was obese. He presented with multiple varicosities, discoloration and cutaneous ulcers with surrounding induration on the left lower limb. There were 13 ulcers of which the biggest ulcer measured 3 x 8 cm in diameter with pale granulation, yellowish slough, greyish edge, a halo of erythema and induration [Figure - 1]. Similar lesions were seen on the medial malleoli, shin and multiple ulcers on the lateral aspect of the left foot [Figure - 2]. His systemic examination was unremarkable. There was no family history of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, atopy or stroke. He was a nonsmoker and nonalcoholic.

Keeping in mind the known causes of leg ulcers we went on to investigate him with a duplex color Doppler, which demonstrated venous incompetence and postphlebitic sequelae in the lower limb. Stasis per se seemed inadequate to account for the number and distribution of ulcers, hence a hyperviscosity syndrome was considered and the following investigations were done. Investigations showed anti-cardiolipin IgA: 3.866 apl (10), anti-cardiolipin IgM: 1.269 mpl (7), anti-cardiolipin IgG: 1.018 gpl (10), anti-thrombin III function 92% (80-100%), lupus anti-coagulant: 29 seconds (29), protein S activity 123.6% (65-140%) and T3 T4 TSH was within normal range. Protein C activity 68.2% (70-130%) was marginally but not significantly low. Electrocardiogram (ECG) was normal. Random blood sugar was 179 mg/dl (70-150), random urine sugar (0.5%) suggestive of stress diabetes or insulin resistance. Lipid profile showed total cholesterol 222 mg/dl (<200), triglycerides 251 mg/dl (<200), HDL cholesterol (Direct) 29 mg/dl (35-55), LDL cholesterol 143 mg/dl (<130), VLDL Cholesterol 50 mg/dl (10-40), Total cholesterol: HDL cholesterol ratio 7.65:1 (<6.0).

Culture from the ulcer grew Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa that were sensitive to a few antibiotics, of which ciprofloxacin 1g once daily for 10 days was chosen for treatment. The plasma homocysteine level was >50 (normal range 0-17) and hence a diagnosis of homocysteinemia was made. He received trimethyl glycine 500 mg, mecobalamine 500 mcg, folic acid 1 mg, pyridoxine hydrochloride 10 mg, ciprofloxacin and injections of vitamin B3, B12, vitamin C, niacinamide, acenocoumarol and dextropropoxyphen to relieve his pain. Povidone iodine dressings and collagen Type III dressings were done twice a week.

The ulcer on the medial aspect of the knee healed after four weeks with some atrophy and hyperpigmentation [Figure - 1]a. At the time of ulceration some areas with erythema and overlying suppuration, erosions healed up without breaking down to ulcer. The ulcer in the region of medial malleoli had healed significantly at the end of six weeks. The multiple ulcers on the lateral aspect of the left foot had healed satisfactorily [Figure - 2]a. The patient remains well one and a half years later.

  Discussion Top

Homocysteine is a sulfur-containing metabolite of methionine and hyperhomocysteinemia is a risk factor for atherosclerosis and venous thrombosis.[1] It can be caused by genetic disorders affecting the trans-sulfuration or remethylation pathways of homocysteine metabolism, folic acid deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency, renal failure, hypothyroidism, increasing age and smoking.[2]

Hyperhomocysteinemia is a biochemical disorder resulting from deficiency of cystathionine-beta-synthase. The metabolic effects include increased platelet aggregation, toxic damage to endothelial surfaces[3] and altered anti-thrombin III activity leading to thromboembolic phenomenon. The systemic effects are as follows:

a) CVS: Myocardial infarction;[4] hypertension; stroke;[4] blindness, renal, portal or pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis.

b) Ocular: Ectopia lentis, myopia, retinal detachment

c) Skeletal: Marfanoid habitus, osteopenia

d) Skin: Malar flush, livedoid vasculitis,[5] canities

e) CNS: Mental retardation, seizures and stroke.[6]

Hyperhomocysteinemia is generally recognized as an independent risk factor for coronary, cerebral and peripheral atherosclerosis. There has recently been renewed interest in homocysteine metabolism because hyperhomocysteinemia has been associated with occlusive arterial disease and neural tube defects. Deficiency of the enzyme 5, 10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase results in hyperhomocysteinemia and a wide variety of neurological and vascular symptoms. Molecular genetic analysis of the enzyme has led to the identification of nine rare mutations associated with a severe deficiency phenotype as well as one common mutation (found in 35 to 40% of alleles in the general population) that is proposed as a risk factor in some forms of cardiovascular disease and in neural defects.[3]

Folic acid acts by participating in the synthesis of DNA, RNA and proteins. It is necessary for DNA repair, replication maintaining integrity of genome.[7] Complications of hyperhomocysteinemia are inflammatory bowel disease, cerebral thrombosis, acute myocardial infarction, venous thrombosis and atherosclerosis. The associated disorders of hyperhomocysteinemia are thromboembolism, pulmonary embolism, schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, scoliosis, kyphosis, spina bifida, lens dislocation, glaucoma and myopia. Strategies for the treatment of CBS deficiency include increasing residual enzyme activity by giving pyridoxine in those patients with vitamin responsive variants, reducing the load on the affected pathway with a low methionine diet and supplementing the diet with cysteine and giving betaine in order to utilize alternative pathways to remove homocysteine.[8]

All patients with chronic multiple leg ulcers with features suggestive of other vascular phenomena such as deep vein thrombosis, venous ulcer, stasis dermatitis, ischemic heart disease, retinal artery occlusion, claudication and Raynaud's phenomenon should have plasma homocysteine level measured immaterial of the age of the patient. It should also be considered in patients in whom basic investigations for the common causes of leg ulcers are not conclusive. Given the low cost of investigation and the easy prevention with folic acid, plasma homocysteine must be measured in every patient with chronic leg ulcers as it may be a contributory and correctable if not a primary cause of chronic leg ulcers.

  References Top

1.Ray JG. Meta-analysis of hyperhomocysteinemia as a risk factor for venous thromboembolic disease. Arch Intern Med 1998;158:2101-6.  Back to cited text no. 1  [PUBMED]  
2.Rozen R. Molecular genetic aspects of hyperhomocysteinemia and its relation to folic acid. Clin Invest Med 1996;19:171-8.  Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED] Groot PG, Wilems C, Boers GH, Gonsalves MD, van Aken WG, van Mourik JA. Endothelial cell dysfunction in homocystinuria. Eur J Clin Invest 1983;13:405-10.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Melo M, Gaspar E, Madeira S, de Moura P, Alexandrino B, de Moura JJ. The methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) 677C ® T mutation and cardiovascular risk-A case of ischemic stroke and acute myocardial infarction. Rev Port Cardiol 2005;24:89-99.  Back to cited text no. 4  [PUBMED]  
5.Gibson GE, Li H, Pittelkow MR. Homocystinemia and livedoid vasculitis. J Am Acad Dermatol 1999;40:279-81.  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Abbott MH, Folstein SE, Abbey H, Pyeritz RE. Psychiatric manifestations of homocystinuria due to cystathionine beta-synthase deficiency: Prevalence, natural history and relationship to neurologic impairment and vitamin B6- responsiveness. Am J Med Genet 1987;6:959-69.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Wang G, Dai J, Mao J, Zeng X, Yang X, Wang X. Folic acid reverses hyper - responsiveness of LPS-induced secretion from monocytes in patients with hyperhomocysteinemia. Atherosclerosis 2005;179:395-402.  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.Clarke R, Daly L, Robinson K, Naughten E, Cahalane S, Fowler B, et al . Hyperhomocysteinemia: An independent risk factor for vascular disease. N Engl J Med 1991;324:1149-55.  Back to cited text no. 8    


[Figure - 1], [Figure - 2]

This article has been cited by
1 Hyperhomocystéinémie et ulcères de jambes : étude prospective de 68 observations
M. Studer, A. Barbaud, F. Truchetet, P.-L. N’guyen, A.-C. Bursztejn, J.-L. Schmutz
Annales de Dermatologie et de Vénéréologie. 2011;
[VIEW] | [DOI]
2 Venous leg ulcer in a 42-year-old woman: What should we think about?
Taher, Z.A., Brassard, A.
Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2009; 13((SUPPL 1)): S20-S25
3 Hyperhomocysteinemia and lower extremity wounds
Schwartzfarb, E.M., Romanelli, P.
International Journal of Lower Extremity Wounds. 2008; 7(3): 126-136


Print this article  Email this article
Previous article Next article


Online since 15th March '04
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow