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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Erythema Multiforme
      Category : Health Centers > Skin Conditions

Erythema Multiforme

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Erythema multiforme is a skin reaction that results in red, target-shaped patches on the skin.

What is going on in the body?

Erythema multiforme is an hypersensitivity reaction commonly caused by an infection or a medication. The person's body responds to an organism or chemical with an exaggerated allergic response.

Erythema multiforme can be minor or more severe. The more severe form is also known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Severe reactions can involve the skin, lungs, kidneys, eyes, and other areas. Rarely, in severe cases, death may occur.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Erythema multiforme is an exaggerated allergic reaction that may be triggered by the following:

  • medications, such as some drugs used to treat diabetes, seizures, and tuberculosis, as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), some antibiotics, and barbiturates
  • infections with viruses, such as herpes simplex, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, chickenpox, or poliomyelitis
  • infections with bacteria, such as tularemia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, or certain types of pneumonia
  • infections with a fungus, such as histoplasmosis
  • cancer, such as leukemia, a type of blood cancer
  • vaccines, such as oral polio vaccine and a combined diphtheria and tetanus vaccine
  • pregnancy
  • radiation therapy
  • Often, the cause is unknown. Erythema multiforme is more common in men than in women. Once a person has an episode of erythema multiforme, he or she is more likely to have more episodes in the future.


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    Erythema Multiforme: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Lynn West, MD
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 07/27/01

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