Erythema multiforme is a skin disorder that's considered to be an allergic reaction to medicine or an infection. Symptoms are symmetrical, red, raised skin areas that can appear all over the body. They do seem to be more noticeable on the fingers and toes. These patches often look like "targets" (dark circles with purple-grey centers). The skin condition may happen over and over again, and usually lasts for 2 to 4 weeks each time.
Most often, this disorder is caused by the herpes simplex virus. It has also been associated with Mycoplasma pnemoniae as well as fungal infections. Other causes may include the following:
An interaction with a certain medicine
Other infectious diseases
The following are the most common symptoms of erythema multiforme:
Sudden, red patches and blisters, usually on the palms of hands, soles of feet, and face
Flat, round red "targets" (dark circles with purple-grey centers)
The symptoms of erythema multiforme may resemble other skin conditions. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Specific treatment for erythema multiforme will be discussed with you by your healthcare provider based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Severity of the condition
Stage of the condition
Your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the condition
Your opinion or preference
Erythema multiforme minor is not very serious and usually clears up with medicine to control infection or inflammation. However, if a person develops a more severe form of erythema multiforme (erythema multiforme major), the condition can become fatal. Erythema multiforme major is also known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome. It is usually caused by a medicine reaction rather than an infection.
Treatment may include:
Treating the infectious disease causing the disorder
Eliminating any medicine causing the disorder
It is recommended that if you have symptoms of erythema multiforme, go to your emergency room or call 911. If a large area of skin is involved, it is an emergency situation.
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200