Erythema multiforme is an inflammation of the skin. It can happen on any part of the skin. There are two types:
Erythema multiforme is an overreaction of the immune system. The cause is not always known. The minor type may be triggered by an infection. The major type may be triggered by medicine.
Erythema multiforme is more common in young adults.
Things that may raise the risk are:
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Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Both erythema multiforme minor and major cause skin spots that:
Erythema multiforme major may also cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to make the diagnosis. You may be sent to a skin doctor.
Erythema multiforme often goes away on its own in 4 to 6 weeks.
Treatment options may be:
Severe erythema multiforme major may also need:
If the condition was triggered by the herpes simplex virus, the risk may be lowered by:
American Academy of Dermatology
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Canadian Dermatology Association
Erythema multiforme. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/erythema-multiforme . Accessed February 18, 2021.
Erythema multiforme. DermNet New Zealand website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/erythema-multiforme. Accessed February 18, 2021.
Trayes KP, Love G, et al. Erythema multiforme: recognition and management. Am Fam Physician. 2019;100(2):82-88.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary Beth Seymour, RN Last Updated: 2/18/2021