What is it?

Erythema multiforme is a skin condition that appears with red patches evolving into target lesions, typically on both hands.
It is a type of erythema possibly mediated by deposition of immune complexes in the superficial microvasculature of the skin and oral mucous membrane that usually follows an infection or drug exposure. Target lesions are a typical manifestation. Two types, one mild to moderate and one severe, are recognized (erythema multiforme minor and erythema multiforme major).

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- EM

Signs & symptoms

The condition varies from a mild, self-limited rash to a severe, life-threatening form known as erythema multiforme major (or erythema multiforme majus) that also involves mucous membranes.
Erythema multiforme minor- typical targets or raised, edematous papules distributed acrally
Erythema multiforme major- typical targets or raised, edematous papules distributed acrally with involvement of one or more mucous membranes; epidermal detachment involves less than 10% of total body surface area
The mild form usually presents with mildly itchy (but itching can be very severe), pink-red blotches, symmetrically arranged and starting on the extremities. It often takes on the classical 'target lesion' appearance, with a pink-red ring around a pale center. Resolution within 7–10 days is the norm.
Individuals with persistent (chronic) erythema multiforme will often have a lesion form at an injury site, e.g. a minor scratch or abrasion, within a week. Irritation or even pressure from clothing will cause the erythema sore to continue to expand along its margins for weeks or months, long after the original sore at the center heals.


the doctor will take full history and physical examination. the doctor will check the rush to see the typical target rush. Blood samples can be taken to the lab to look for immune complexes


Erythema multiforme is frequently self-limiting and requires no treatment. The appropriateness of glucocorticoid therapy can be uncertain, because it is difficult to determine if the course will be a resolving one.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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