Pronounced: Er-uh-thee-ma Multi-form-aye
Erythema multiforme is a common skin disorder. It consists of target-like circular lesions. They have a red center, pale ring, and dark red outer ring. These lesions appear suddenly on the legs, arms, palms, hands, feet, and inside the mouth.
In some cases this condition can be caused by a reaction to an infection or certain medications. Often the cause is unknown.
Erythema multiforme minor is most commonly associated with:
Other triggers connected with erythema multiforme major include:
Exposure to any of the known causes increase the risk. The conditions more commonly occurs in:
Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. If you have any of these do not assume it is due to erythema multiforme. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your doctor.
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin problems.
Most cases can be diagnosed based on your medical history and skin exam. If target lesions are present, then diagnosis is clear. The skin lesions may not be typical. In this case, a biopsy of the skin may be done. The skin sample is examined under a microscope.
Treatment for this condition involves:
Treatment options include the following:
If you develop this condition, it will be important to find what triggered it. Avoid the trigger to help prevent its recurrence.
If herpes simplex virus is the trigger, your doctor may prescribe a daily oral antiviral medication. This will help to prevent this condition.
American Academy of Dermatology
American Family Physician
Canadian Dermatology Association
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Erythema multiforme. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.or... . Accessed November 4, 2010.
British Association of Dermatologists. Erythema multiforme. British Association of Dermatologists website. Available at: http://www.bad.org.uk/patients/leaflets/erythema.asp . Accessed September 20, 2005.
DynaMed Editorial Team. Erythema multiforme. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated April 12, 2010. Accessed November 4, 2010.
New Zealand Dermatological Society. Erythema multiforme. New Zealand Dermatological Society website. Available at: http://www.dermnetnz.org/reactions/erythema-multiforme.html. Accessed September 20, 2005.
Postgraduate Medicine. Katta R. Taking aim at erythema multiforme. Postgraduate Medicine Online. Available at: https://postgradmed.org/doi/10.3810/pgm.2000.01.826. Accessed September 20, 2005.
Sterling JB, Heymann WR. Potassium iodide in dermatology: a 19th century drug for the 21st century-uses, pharmacology, adverse effects, and contraindications. J Am Acad Dermatol . 2000 Oct;43(4):691-697.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Peter Lucas, MD
Last Updated: 09/30/2012