Erythema is a type of skin condition which is identified by redness or rash. There are many types of erythema which involves photosensitivity, erythema multiforme, and erythema nodosum.
Photosensitivity is caused by a reaction to sunlight and tends to occur when something, such as an infection or a medication, increases your sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation.
Erythema multiforme is identified by raised spots or other lesions on the skin. It is generally caused by a reaction to medications, infections, or illness.
Erythema nodosum is a kind of erythema that is accompanied by tender lumps, mostly on the legs below the knees, and may be caused by certain medications or diseases.
Causes of Erythema
In more than half of all the cases of either erythema multiforme or erythema nodosum, exact cause is still unknown. In different cases, number of causes may result in erythema.
- Infection, primarily from the herpes simplex virus (HSV)
- Medications, like penicillin and sulfa drugs anti-seizure medications non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
What to expect at the Clinic
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and may order a skin biopsy, throat culture
, blood test
, or x-ray
to determine the type of erythema. These tests also may reveal any infections or medications that are contributing to symptoms.
Signs & Symptoms of Erythema
- Fever, fatigue and itching (before lesions appear)
- Sudden outbreak of spots, bumps, and lesions (usually on knees, elbows, palms, hands, and feet)
- Target lesions (spots surrounded by rings of normal and red skin, looking like a target)
- Erythema infectiosum (caused by a virus and known as fifth disease), rash on face and arms lasting about 2 weeks
- Fatigue, flu-like symptoms (before lesions appear)
- Group of nodules (small round masses) and lesions on shins, forearms, thighs, and trunk
- Red, painful lesions become soft and bluish, and fade to yellow and brown
- Joint pain
Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), the most severe forms of erythema multiforme, have a different set of symptoms.
Target lesions on the trunk, hacking cough, fever, and blisters around the mouth, eyes, nostrils, and anal and vaginal areas are the key symptoms of Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS).
A person with toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) will have symptoms of Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) that worsen to include peeling and detachment of the skin, pus-like infections, fluid loss, and even death.