The various skin disorders that can result in erythroderma are the following:
Different types of dermatitis (eg, atopic dermatitis Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) Atopic dermatitis is a chronic relapsing inflammatory skin disorder with a complex pathogenesis involving genetic susceptibility, immunologic and epidermal barrier dysfunction, and environmental... read more , allergic contact dermatitis Allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin caused by direct contact with irritants (irritant contact dermatitis) or allergens (allergic contact dermatitis). Symptoms include pruritus and... read more , seborrheic dermatitis Seborrheic Dermatitis Seborrheic dermatitis is a common inflammatory condition of skin regions with a high density of sebaceous glands (eg, face, scalp, sternum). The cause is unknown, but species of Malassezia... read more )
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma Cutaneous T-cell Lymphomas (CTCL) Mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome are uncommon chronic T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas primarily affecting the skin and occasionally the lymph nodes. (See also Overview of Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin... read more (particularly Sézary syndrome)
Erythroderma can develop in patients known to have skin disorders such as those above, but erythroderma can also develop spontaneously in patients without a history of prior skin problems.
An older, now only rarely used term for erythroderma is exfoliative dermatitis. However, exfoliative dermatitis is not a dermatitis. Although erythroderma can result from dermatitis, it can also result from many other (nondermatitis) skin conditions.
(See also Definition of Dermatitis Definition of Dermatitis The meaning of the word "dermatitis" is inflammation of the skin. However, in clinical dermatology, dermatitis is used to describe a variety of different skin conditions that share the same... read more .)
Symptoms and Signs of Erythroderma
Symptoms of erythroderma include malaise and chills due to the extensive inflammation and heat loss through large areas of hyperperfused skin. Patients with erythroderma have diffuse erythema and desquamation of the skin.
Pruritus is often present.
Diagnosis of Erythroderma
Diagnosis of erythroderma is by history and examination. Determining the cause may require extensive testing.
Blood tests may reveal electrolyte imbalances and an increase in inflammatory markers; however, these findings are not diagnostic of erythroderma. T-cell receptor rearrangement studies to search for monoclonal T-cell expansions in the skin and/or in the peripheral blood and characterization of skin-infiltrating and peripheral T-cell subsets can be done to diagnose T-cell lymphoma when this disorder is under consideration.
Biopsy is often nonspecific, and sometimes repeat biopsies are needed. When erythroderma develops in patients without a history of prior skin problems, immediate biopsy may not reveal the cause.
Treatment of Erythroderma
Treatment of the underlying disorder
Supportive care (eg, rehydration, treatment for electrolyte abnormalities)
Topical care (eg, emollients)
Sometimes topical or systemic corticosteroids
Possibly stopping or changing any drug that may be the cause
Comprehensive skin care is indicated. Any known cause is treated.
Supportive care consists of correction of dehydration, correction of electrolyte abnormalities and nutritional deficiencies, and comprehensive wound care and dressings to prevent bacterial superinfection.
Skin care is with emollients and colloidal oatmeal baths.
Weak topical corticosteroids (eg, 1 to 2.5% hydrocortisone ointment) are often used. Systemic corticosteroids (eg, prednisone 40 to 60 mg orally once a day for 10 days, then tapered) are often used for severe disease. However, although topical or systemic corticosteroids can help relieve symptoms, they should be used cautiously because they can exacerbate certain disorders that could be the cause of erythroderma.
Because a drug reaction often cannot be ruled out by history alone, it may be necessary to stop all drugs or the most suspect ones.
Prognosis for Erythroderma
Prognosis depends on the cause.
Erythroderma may be life threatening; hospitalization is often necessary.
Erythroderma is the maximum severity of various widely heterogeneous skin conditions.
Often the underlying cause is not immediately apparent.
Symptoms include widespread erythema (> 70 % of the body surface area) and often pruritus.
Diagnosis is clinical, but determining the underlying cause often requires extensive testing, including skin biopsies.
Hospitalization is often necessary, because the disease may be life threatening.
Treatment consists of supportive care, comprehensive skin care, and treatment of the cause.