Erythema – Types, Causes and Treatment

Erythema is a skin condition characterized by redness or rash. There are several types of erythema with the causes and methods of treatment that you need to know. In medical terms, erythema is inflammation of the skin caused by congestion or dilation of the capillary vessels. Erythema can occur due to an inflammatory reaction due to sun exposure and allergies to several types of drugs.

Types of Erythema

Erythema is divided into several types, including photosensitivity, erythema nodusum, and erythema multiforme.


Photosensitivity is caused by a reaction to sunlight and tends to occur due to infection or treatment that increases sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation. There are some people who are at high risk of developing erythema. Men are at greater risk of developing erythema multiforme than women. Meanwhile, women are at greater risk of developing erythema nodosum than men. Exposure to sunlight that is too frequent or excessive can also increase the risk of erythema multiforme. People between the ages of 20 and 30 years are at greater risk of developing erythema nodosum. Even with people with a family history of having such skin conditions it is more likely to develop erythema multiforme or erythema nodosum.

Erythema Nodosum

Erythema nodosum is a form of inflammation in the layer of fat beneath the skin. Erythema nodosum can be a lump with redness and pain that generally occurs in the front of the leg below the knee. Normally, erythema nodosum will disappear by itself within three to six weeks, and leave marks like bruises. Meanwhile, chronic erythema will usually last for years with occasional recurrence patterns.

Erythema nodosum can occur with or without an underlying medical condition. Conditions associated with erythema nodosum include drugs (sulfa-related drugs, birth control pills, estrogen), sore throat, cat scratch disease, fungal disease, mononucleosis infection, sarcoidosis, Behcet’s disease and intestinal inflammation.

Although it does not threaten internal organs, erythema nodosum can be very annoying and painful. Erythema nodosum can be treated by identifying and treating the underlying condition. Generally, treatment for erythema nodosum is an anti-inflammatory drug and cortisone by mouth or injection. Colchicine is sometimes used effectively to reduce inflammation. Under certain conditions, treatment of erythema nodosum must be adjusted according to symptoms. For this reason, you are advised to consult a doctor for proper treatment.

Erythema Multiforme

Erythema multiforme is a hypersensitivity reaction that is usually triggered by infection with the herpes simplex virus. Erythema multiforme can also be triggered by mycoplasma pneumonia, which is a lung infection caused by the Mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria.

Some types of viruses can also trigger this condition, such as parapoxvirus, varicella zoster herpes, adenovirus, hepatitis virus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), cytomegalovirus, vaccine reaction, and dermatophyte fungal infections. In addition to infection, this condition can also be triggered by the use of drugs such as allopurinol to treat gout, antibiotics such as penicillin and sulfa class antibiotics, anti-seizure drugs, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Erythema multiforme is divided into two types, minor and major. In major multiforme erythema, common symptoms can include fever or chills, weakness in the body, joint pain, accompanied by the onset of skin lesions with an itchy and painful sensation that spreads throughout the body. The rash in this disease looks like an archery target, and usually appears on the back of the hand and the upper part of the leg, then spreads to the body. This rash often appears on the face, palms, and neck, but is less common in the legs. Rashes can also appear on the lips and tongue.

For most cases of erythema multiforme, no special treatment is needed, because the rash will subside by itself within a few weeks without complications. However, treatment for this condition is adjusted to the cause, such as oral acyclovir in patients with herpes simplex virus, and antibiotics for Mycoplasma pneumoniae virus infection. If suspected of being triggered by drug use, the use of drugs suspected of causing symptoms should be stopped immediately.

There are several supporting treatments to alleviate the symptoms, such as oral antihistamines or topical corticosteroids to treat the itching. Oral pain can be treated with mouthwash containing local anesthetics and antiseptics to reduce pain and secondary infections. The use of oral corticosteroids to treat symptoms must be in accordance with the doctor’s recommendations.

Severe erythema multiforme is divided into two types, namely Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). This condition can be triggered by infection or allergic reactions to certain drugs or substances. In SJS, target lesions appear on the body, can be accompanied by cough, fever, and blisters on the mouth, eyes and mucosa of the nose, vagina, and anus. In TEN, symptoms are similar to SJS but the skin peels and fester if infected. Both of these diseases are emergency conditions and can be life threatening if not treated immediately.

For recurrent erythema multiforme, it is usually treated with oral acyclovir continuously for 6 months. Consult with your doctor about the right medicines and dosage according to the conditions experienced.

Erythema Treatment

The main goal of treatment in erythema is to overcome inflammation, prevent infection, and increase immunity. Until now there is no accurate data regarding the effectiveness of alternative therapies compared to the main therapy. Complementary therapies and alternatives to overcome erythema can be a way to reduce inflammation, improve the immune system, prevent infection, and improve nutrition.

You need antioxidant intake every day as found in beta carotene, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, melatonin, zinc and fruit and vegetables that contain flavonoids. It is important to get the right diagnosis from your doctor before using complementary and alternative therapies. Even not all types of therapy are suitable for everyone. And remember, alternative therapy is not the main choice in the treatment of cases of erythema in general. For those of you who are indicated to have erythema, it is advisable to immediately visit a doctor to get the right diagnosis and treatment.

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