Erythema multiforme - Introduction

Introduction Causes Symptoms Treatments

Erythema multiforme is an acute, self-limiting, sometimes recurring skin condition that usually settles without complications.
The name tells you a bit about what the rash looks like. It means a redness (erythema) that is of many (multi-) shapes (-forme). In fact, the rash of erythema multiforme can be recognized by the presence of spots that look like small targets (‘target lesions’). These have a dusky red centre, a paler area around this, and then a dark red ring round the edge.

Erythema multiforme is usually mild (erythema multiforme minor) - with only a few spots, causing little trouble and clearing up quickly - but there is also a rare but much more severe type (erythema multiforme major) that can be life threatening with involvement of the moist areas (mucus membranes) inside the mouth, in the genital area, and on the conjunctiva of the eyes.