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Erythema Multiforme

Erythema Multiforme is a skin condition arising from an allergic reaction. It is an acute but usually self-limiting skin inflammation. Erythema multiforme derives it's name from the fact that it appears in many forms. Erythema multiforme minor is a relatively milder attack. It lasts for a couple of weeks. On the other hand, Erythema multiforme major (also known as Stevens Johnson syndrome) is a severe allergic reaction resulting in large blood blisters. Usually the cause of Erythema multiforme is the herpes virus. It may be caused by bacterial or viral infections and can sometimes be a reaction to medication.


Erythema multiforme manifests as skin lesions - red welts with purple areas in the center. The rashes appear all over the body and also affect the mouth and eyes. There is burning or itching. The rash may be more localized on the hands and feet. Some patients suffering from Erythema multiforme tend to get repeated attacks. There may be fever and joint ache. As the rashes disappear, they may leave a brown pigmentation on the skin. This skin condition is mostly seen in children and young adults.


Most cases of erythema multiforme completely recover. The condition is diagnosed by a dermatologist by the typical rash associated with it. Erythema multiforme is treated with steroid creams and tablets. Antibiotics are prescribed for any secondary infection. If herpes simplex virus is identified as the cause, antiviral agents such as aciclovir or Valvir is prescribed.

Stevens Johnson Syndrome

Stevens Johnson Syndrome or SJS is a potentially deadly skin condition with symptoms similar to erythema multiforme but in a much more severe and extensive manner.

SJS, depending upon the severity is also known as Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN) - a violent reaction that comes after exposure to some drugs like allopurinol, sulfonamide antibiotics, lamotrigine, carbamazepine, nevirapine and phenytoin.

SJS can affect any age group, particularly older people. It can be caused by a drug hypersensitivity. A patient with impaired immune system like HIV, or one who is undergoing radiation therapy has higher chances of SJS. Stevens Johnson syndrome symptoms include flu-like symptoms in addition to the rashes. There is blistering on the skin and mucus membranes. Infection that enters through the blistered and affected areas can be deadly and life-threatening. The patient may develop red eyes and joint pains. The skin lesions are often referred to as target lesions since they are characterized by concentric rings of red, white and red. Conjunctivitis is sometimes noticed. Treatment for Stevens-Johnson syndrome include topical anesthetics, corticosteroids and antibiotics. Usually the patients suffering from this condition are hospitalized. It may take a few weeks for a patient to recover from SJS.


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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: August 25, 2019