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Definition

Erythroderma is the term used to describe intense and usually widespread reddening of the skin due to inflammatory skin disease. It is also known as erythrodermatitis, generalized exfoliative dermatitis, and red man syndrome. The erythema tends to decrease in later life and may disappear in middle age, but the scaling persists and may even worsen with age. Small stature, mental retardation, ocular defects and other developmental abnormalities are occasionally associated. The condition usually develops slowly, but may be of acute onset. It often precedes or is associated with exfoliation (skin peeling off in scales or layers) when it may also be known as exfoliative dermatitis (ED). It is sometimes called the 'red man syndrome' when no primary cause can be found (idiopathic erythroderma). It is not a specific disease and can be seen in both benign and malignant diseases.

Causes

Erythroderma can arise from a variety of causes, most often as an extension of a pre-existing skin disorder. Erythroderma may also be due to an adverse drug reaction. However, in as many as 30% of all cases of erythroderma, no underlying cause can be found. This is called idiopathic erythroderma. The causes of erythroderma in this age group are different from that in adults and distinctive, but maybe difficult to establish due to poor specificity of clinical and laboratory findings. Careful monitoring and management of the patient may improve the final outcome.

Symptoms

Some sign and symptoms related to Exfoliative erythroderma syndrome are as follows:

  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Fever and chills may occur.
  • Low serum albumin because of protein loss and increased metabolic rate.
  • Secondary infection may occur with pustules and crusting.
  • Red skin patches.
  • Thick scaling may develop on scalp with varying degrees of hair loss including complete baldness.

Treatment

Systemic or potent topical steroids: These steroids are very effective in curing erythroderma fast. But, these should be used very carefully and only under supervision of a renowned doctor.

Topical Steroids: are the primary category of medications used to treat erythroderma.

Topical tar preparations and photo therapy should also be avoided in the early treatment of erythroderma.

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