Treatment goals include:
- Controlling the illness that is causing the condition
- Preventing infection
- Treating the symptoms
Stop taking any suspected medications, with your doctor’s approval.
Treatment of mild symptoms may include:
- Medications such as antihistamines to control itching
- Moist compresses applied to the skin
- Over-the-counter medications (such as acetaminophen) to reduce fever and discomfort
- Topical anesthetics (especially for mouth lesions) to ease discomfort that interferes with eating and drinking
Treatment of severe symptoms may include:
- Antibiotics to control any skin infections
- Corticosteroids to control inflammation
- Hospitalization and treatment in an intensive care or burn care unit for severe cases, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and toxic epidermal necrolysis
- Intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG) to stop the disease process
Practicing good hygiene and staying away from other people may help prevent secondary infections.
Skin grafting may be helpful in cases in which large areas of the body are affected.
In cases that are caused by the herpes virus, daily antiviral medications may be prescribed to prevent erythema multiforme from returning.
Mild forms of erythema multiforme usually get better in 2 – 6 weeks, but they may return. More severe forms may be difficult to treat. Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis have high death rates.
- Body-wide infection, sepsis
- Loss of body fluids, shock
- Occasionally, lesions on internal organs causing:
- Heart inflammation (myocarditis)
- Lung inflammation (pneumonitis)
- Kidney inflammation (nephritis)
- Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
- Permanent skin damage and scarring
- Skin infection (cellulitis)
Calling Your Health Care Provider
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have symptoms of erythema multiforme. If a large area of the body is involved, it is an emergency situation.
Erythema multiforme : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Erythema multiforme : Symptoms & Signs, Diagnosis & Tests
Erythema multiforme : Treatment
Review Date : 2/3/2010
Reviewed By : A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (10/28/2008).
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