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Severe Erythema Multiforme

Severe Erythema Multiforme

What is erythema multiforme? — Erythema multiforme is a condition that causes red spots on the skin. The spots often have a dark center surrounded by pale red rings, like a target or bull's-eye. Sometimes, the spots have blisters.
The spots can appear in different places on the body, including the:
Arms and legs
Chest and back
Face and neck
Palms of the hands
Soles of the feet
Lips, tongue, and gums
Near the eyes
Genital area
The spots might itch or burn. Some people have a fever and feel tired and achy before the spots appear. The spots usually show up over 3 to 5 days. They disappear in about 2 weeks.
What causes erythema multiforme? — Most of the time, erythema multiforme is caused by an infection. But medicines can cause erythema multiforme, too.
Are there tests I should have? — Your nurse or doctor should be able to tell if you have erythema multiforme by looking at your skin and doing an exam. He or she might also take a small skin sample and a blood sample. These samples will help your doctor make sure your symptoms aren't being caused by another medical condition.
Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better? — Yes. You can try putting a cool, damp cloth on the area with the spots. You can also take over-the-counter medicines such as:
Diphenhydramine (sample brand name: Benadryl) for itching and swelling
Acetaminophen (sample brand name: Tylenol) for fever and discomfort
How is erythema multiforme treated? — Treatments include medicines to ease itching and pain. Some medicines are creams that you rub on your skin. Others are pills.
If you have spots in your mouth, your doctor might give you a special mouthwash to help relieve the pain.
Can erythema multiforme be prevented? — If your condition was caused by a medicine, do not take that medicine again. Talk to your doctor or nurse about switching to a different medicine.
Some people who are infected with a certain virus keep getting erythema multiforme over and over again. If you get erythema multiforme more than several times a year, talk with your doctor or nurse. He or she might give you a medicine to take every day that will help keep you from getting it so often.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 16987 Version 5.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
© 2020 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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