Lyell's syndrome; Stevens-Johnson syndrome; Erythema multiforme minor; Erythema multiforme major
Erythema multiforme is a skin disorder that comes from an allergic reaction or infection.
Erythema multiforme is a type of hypersensitivity reaction. It occurs in response to medicines, infections, or illness. Medicines that can cause this reaction include:
The exact cause is unknown. The disorder may start with damage to the blood vessels of the skin that damages skin tissues.
Some forms of this condition are more severe than others.
Erythema multiforme occurs mostly in children and young adults.
Symptoms of erythema multiforme include:
Skin sores may:
Other symptoms may include:
Your health care provider will look at your skin to diagnose this problem. The provider will ask if you have a history of risk factors or related diseases.
Tests may include:
Treatment goals include:
Your doctor may have you stop taking any medicines that may be causing the problem. Do not stop taking medicines without talking to your doctor first.
Treatment of mild symptoms may include:
Treatment of severe symptoms may include:
Good hygiene and staying away from other people may help prevent secondary infections (infections that occur from treating the first infection).
You may need skin grafting if large areas of your body are affected.
Mild forms of erythema multiforme usually get better in 2 to 6 weeks, but the problem may return. More severe forms may be hard to treat. Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis have high death rates.
Some complications of erythema multiforme are:
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have symptoms of erythema multiforme. Get emergency help immediately if a large area of your body is affected.
Currie GP, Plaza JA. Diseases of the skin. In: Bope ET, Kellerman RD, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2014. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:section 4.
Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 18.
Weber DJ, Cohen MS, Morrell DS, Rutala WA. The acutely ill patient with fever and rash. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Disease. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 52.
Last reviewed on: 11/12/2014
Reviewed by: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.