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Alternative Names Return to topLyell's syndrome; Stevens-Johnson syndrome; Toxic epidermal necrolysis
Definition Return to top
Erythema multiforme is a skin disorder due to an allergic reaction or infection.
Causes Return to top
Erythema multiforme is a type of allergic reaction that occurs in response to medications, infections, or illness. Medications include:
Most erythema multiforme is associated with herpes simplex or mycoplasma infections.
The exact cause is unknown. The disorder is believed to involve damage to the blood vessels of the skin, followed by damage to skin tissues.
Some forms of this condition are more severe than others. Erythema multiforme minor is not very serious. Erythema multiforme major (also called Stevens-Johnson syndrome) is more severe. The more severe form is usually caused by reactions to medications, rather than infections.
Erythema multiforme occurs primarily in children and young adults.
Symptoms Return to top
Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:
Exams and Tests Return to top
The diagnosis is based mainly on the appearance of the skin lesion, especially if there is a history of risk factors or related diseases.
Tests may include:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment goals include:
Stop taking any suspected medications, with your doctor's approval.
Treatment of mild symptoms may include:
Treatment of severe symptoms may include:
Practicing good hygiene and staying away from other people may help prevent secondary infections.
Skin grafting may be helpful in cases in which large areas of the body are affected.
In cases that are caused by the herpes virus, daily antiviral medications may be prescribed to prevent erythema multiforme from returning.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Mild forms of erythema multiforme usually get better in 2 - 6 weeks, but they may return. More severe forms may be difficult to treat. Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis have high death rates.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have symptoms of erythema multiforme. If a large area of the body is involved, it is an emergency situation.
References Return to top
Lamoreux MR, Sternbach MR, Hsu WT. Erythema Multiforme. Am Fam Physician. 2006;74:1883-1888.
Erythema multiforme. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009.Update Date: 10/3/2008 Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.