Table of Contents
Definition of Erythema Multiforme
Erythema Multiforme is a hypersensitivity reaction, commonly to medications and sometimes to viral infection, in which circular, weltlike lesions resembling targets form on the arms, hands, legs, and feet.
Lesions also often form on and around the lips and inside the mouth. The center of the lesion is typically pale and blistered, surrounded with a reddened (erythematous) middle ring. The outer ring often has a purplish tint, giving it a bruiselike appearance. Lesions typically begin erupting within three days of the causative exposure, rising suddenly. Some people experience tingling, itching, or a burning sensation at the site of the lesion.
Common causes of erythema multiforme include
- Infection with the herpes simplex virus
- Antibiotic medications
- Antiseizure medications
- Aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
- Numerous other medications
Symptoms and Treatment
The uniquely characteristic lesions in provide fairly conclusive diagnosis. The causative agent may be clear, such as a recently taken medication, or remain unknown (idiopathic). Most erythema multiforme outbreaks are self-limiting and clear up two to three weeks after exposure to the causative agent ends.
Treatment to provide relief from discomfort may include antihistamine medications for itching, analgesic medications for pain relief, and topical corticosteroids for inflammation. Nearly always the lesions heal without scarring or other complications. Prevention of future outbreaks is difficult as there are so many potential causes.Page last reviewed: