Diseases Symptoms Drugs Injuries Surgeries Vitamins Pediatric Symptoms
  home         about us         support center         contact us         terms of service         site map


General Information

DEFINITION--An acute inflammatory disorder of the skin and mucous membranes (thin moist tissues that line body cavities). In the majority of cases, it is a self-limited, benign disorder, but can be potentially severe. The severe form of the disorder is known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome or erythema multiforme major; the less severe form is referred to as erythema multiforme minor.

BODY PARTS INVOLVED--Skin and mucous membranes.

SEX OR AGE MOST AFFECTED--Men more than women; adults age 20-40; rare under age 3 or over age 50.


  • Rash spots that are red and symmetrical in shape, frequently appearing as concentric rings like bull's-eyes.
  • Rash usually appears on palms, soles, other areas of arms and legs, may spread to face and rest of the body.
  • Rash is itchy, sometimes painful or has burning sensation.
  • Rash develops into blisters, hives or becomes ulcerated.
  • In the major form, the mucous membranes of the mouth, eyes and genitals become inflamed.
  • Fever; headache; sore throat; diarrhea.


In 50% of the cases, the cause is unknown. Viral infections, particularly the herpes simplex virus. Bacterial or protozoan infections. Collagen vascular disease. > Medications, such as: sulfonamides, penicillins, anticonvulsants, salicylates, barbiturates. The reaction to the drug may not occur until 7-14 days after first using it.

  • Malignancy; pregnancy; radiation therapy; premenstrual hormone changes.


  • Previous history of erythema multiforme.
  • Taking medications that may cause the disorder.


  • Avoiding suspected causes where feasible.
  • Prompt treatment of any illness or infection that may cause erythema multiforme.
  • Prevention of herpes simplex virus outbreaks by avoiding sun exposure and reducing stress.

What To Expect


  • Medical history and exam by a doctor.
  • Skin biopsy (See Glossary).


  • Self-care after diagnosis for mild cases.
  • Doctor's treatment.
  • If there is extensive, advanced skin damage present, hospitalization in a special burn unit for treatment may be required.


  • Progression from the minor form to the major form of erythema multiforme.
  • Eyes may develop corneal ulcerations, iritis or other serious problems.
  • Recurrence of the disorder.
  • Serious illness or even death may may result due to shock or inflammation spreading throughout the body.

PROBABLE OUTCOME--Rash evolves over 1-2 weeks and usually clears up in 2-3 weeks, but may take 5-6 weeks.

How To Treat


  • Bed rest, if fever is present.
  • Discontinuing any implicated medication.
  • Wet dressings and soaks or lotions to soothe the skin.
  • Bathing in lukewarm to cool water three times a day for 30 minutes.
  • Careful monitoring of any eye involvement to prevent complications.
  • If mouth sores are present, good oral hygiene is important to reduce possibility of infection and to relieve discomfort.

MEDICATION--Your doctor may prescribe:

  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and irritation.
  • Acyclovir may be prescribed to treat viral infection such as herpes simplex virus.
  • Antibacterial medications, if secondary infection present.
  • Topical medications or mouthwashes if mouth sores are present, .
  • Eyewashes or other topical medications if eyes are involved.
  • Pain medications, sedatives or antihistamines to help provide relief of symptoms.

ACTIVITY--As tolerated by your symptoms.


  • Usually no special diet is necessary.
  • If mouth sores are present, a soft or liquid diet may be better tolerated.
  • Increased fluid intake sometimes helpful.
  • Intravenous fluids may be required in hospitalized patient.

Call Your Doctor If

  • You or a family member has signs or symptoms of erythema multiforme.
  • Symptoms worsen during treatment. Complications can be potentially severe.
  • New or unexplained symptoms develop.
Dserun mollit anim id est laborum. Lorem ipsum and sunt in culpa qui officias deserunt mollit. Excepteur plus sint occaecat the best cupidatat nonr proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. September 24, 2004
read more


Excepteur plus sint occaecat the best cupidatat nonr proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit.
Support forums
Help desk
home       about us      affiliates     contact us       terms of service      

© 2005 All right reserved