Erythema multiforme is a skin disease that causes red skin patches, blotches or whatever you want to call them. The lesions are usually circular or round. And erythema multiforme can also affect your mucous membranes found in the lining of your mouth, digestive tract and vagina.
Erythema multiforme red skin blotches appear suddenly, typically causing multiple patches to break out on both arms and/or legs, then they spread inwardly. Although, this skin disease rash can turn up on your palms or soles as well.
The red lesions start as macules, become papular and then gradually enlarge into bigger blotches. These red patches can mildly itch and burn at the point of their eruption. The center of your erythema lesions will appear to be surrounded by red rings, which resembles a bulls eye.
- eye pain
- dry eyes
- itchy skin
- eye discharge
- vision problems
- eye burning, itching, bloodshot eyes
Erythema multiforme presents in various levels of severity. The skin disease is considered minor when your red skin lesions are localized with minimal involvement of the mucous membrane.
When the degree of your symptoms are considered severe, this skin disease is referred to as erythema multiforme major or Stevens-Johnson syndrome. At this stage, your health condition is assessed as extremely serious because it can cause these complications:
Skin damage and scarring may occur with erythema multiforme major. And it can even be fatal.
Erythema multiforme is most often associated with some type of allergic reaction, infection or other various triggers related to an immune reaction. Classified as a hypersensitivity disorder, its actual cause is unknown. Presumably, some type of immune reaction might cause blood vessel damage, followed by skin tissue damage.
- fifth disease
- viral hepatitis
- Lyme disease
- Vincent disease
- Epstein-Barr virus
- cat scratch disease
- Neisseria meningitidis
- streptococcal infection
- pneumococci pneumonia
- varicella zoster ~ chicken pox, shingles
- rickettsial infections ~ spotted fever, typhus, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis
Another trigger high on the list that may be causing your red skin patches are certain medications, for instance:
- sulfa drugs
- certain antibiotics
- phenytoin anticonvulsant
- NSAIDS ~ aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen
The more severe forms of erythema multiforme are for the most part caused by a drug reaction and not infections.
A couple other potential triggers and health conditions that could be tied to your erythema multiforme caused skin blotch rash involve:
- collagen disease
- multiple myeloma
- chemical exposure
- non-Hodgkin lymphoma
- environmental ~ cold, sunlight
- food ~ salmon, berries, margarine
- flavorings, preservatives ~ benzoic acid, cinnamon
Initial treatment for erythema multiforme is to discover and eliminate the agent causing your rash. This could mean you’ll stop taking a drug, treat a bacterial infection with antibiotics or take antivirals for a viral infection.
Additionally, your red skin lesions and other symptoms may be treated with:
- antihistamines to stop skin itch
- moist compresses on skin patches
- corticosteroids to reduce inflammation
- OTC analgesics to reduce pain & fever
- topical anesthetics on mouth lesions to ease eating & drinking discomfort
Mild cases of erythema multiforme usually clear up within 6 weeks, without permanent skin damage. But, you might be subjected to a future red blotch flare-up.
Severe cases will likely require hospitalization to treatment Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Intravenous immunoglobulins may be given to help stop the progression of your skin disease. And the chance of survival isn’t great at this point.