Sweet ‘s syndrome is a rare skin condition. Fever and painful skin lesions are the main signs. They occur primarily, but not exclusively, on the head, neck, torso, and arms. The exact cause of Sweet’s syndrome is not known. Diseases, infections or certain medications are among the possible triggers. Sweet syndrome can also appear as an accompaniment to various types of cancer. Treatment for Sweet’s syndrome is often with corticosteroid pills. Symptoms and signs often disappear within a few days of starting treatment. However, relapses are common.
What is Sweet Syndrome?
First described by Robert Sweet in 1964, Sweet’s syndrome is a term used to describe a more aggressive neutrophilic process associated with other inflammatory diseases or malignancy, in addition to classic Sweet’s disease occurring in young women after respiratory disease. For lupus vulgaris in English, please visit gradphysics.com.
In fact, the lesions can be the first clue to an underlying condition and should prompt further investigation. Sweet’s syndrome is a reactive process, i.e. a hypersensitive reaction to systemic factors such as hematological diseases, infections, inflammation, vaccination or drugs.
The disease is mediated by neutrophils as determined by its histopathologic appearance, the neutrophils involved, and response to drugs that affect neutrophil activity. Due to the increase in certain white blood cells, the disease is also known as acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis.
In the majority of cases, Sweet’s syndrome does not have a clearly identifiable cause. It is sometimes associated with cancer, most commonly with leukemia. Occasionally, the disease develops as an accompaniment to a solid tumor, such as colon carcinoma or breast cancer.
However, Sweet’s syndrome can also be a reaction to a drug, especially one that stimulates white blood cell production. The syndrome is rare, but there are some risk factors that make developing the disease more likely. In general, women are more likely to be affected by Sweet’s syndrome than men. Some of them develop the condition during pregnancy.
But age also plays a role. Although both older adults and children can get the disease, people aged 30 to 60 years are particularly at risk. The syndrome can follow a respiratory infection. Many patients report flu-like symptoms that appear before the rash. It can also develop in connection with inflammatory bowel disease.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
The main symptoms of Sweet’s syndrome are small red bumps on the arms, neck, head, or torso. Although the skin manifestations mostly appear there, they do not have to be limited to these regions. The areas show strong, edema-like changes and an increased occurrence of neutrophils.
They often appear abruptly after a fever or upper respiratory infection. The bumps grow quickly and spread out in painful clusters about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. In addition to changes in the skin and blood count, about half of the patients complain of joint pain caused by accompanying joint inflammation.
Diagnosis & course of disease
A dermatologist might be able to diagnose Sweet’s syndrome by examining the lesions. However, certain tests are often used to rule out diseases with similar symptoms and to look for the underlying cause. For example, a blood sample can be sent to a lab to be tested for abnormally high red blood cell counts and certain disorders.
The doctor may also do a skin biopsy. A sample of the diseased tissue is taken and examined under a microscope. The tissue is then analyzed to determine if it has the characteristic abnormalities of Sweet’s syndrome. As the disease progresses, there is a risk that the skin lesions will become infected.
In this case, advice should be sought from a doctor on how to care for the affected skin areas. In cases where Sweet’s syndrome is associated with cancer, the erosions of the skin can be the first sign of an emerging or recurring disease.
Sweet’s syndrome usually resolves on its own without any major complications. However, for people who are already physically weakened due to another illness, the symptoms are often a great burden. In the case of an immune deficiency, a high fever can lead to serious circulatory problems. Infections may spread and spread to the entire nasopharynx.
The bumps themselves can become infected and worsen the underlying symptoms. After the disease has subsided, scars often remain, and occasionally there are also sensory disturbances in the affected area. The initially mild joint pain can develop into serious joint inflammation, which in turn leads to restricted movement and other complications.
Those affected often perceive the skin changes as an aesthetic flaw. A chronic illness therefore occasionally has negative effects on the mental state – inferiority complexes and social anxiety develop. There are also risks associated with drug treatment. Immunosuppressants, for example, are associated with an increased susceptibility to infections.
In addition, complications such as muscle weakness, damage to the kidneys and a reduction in bone density can occur. Corresponding preparations also increase the risk of developing diabetes mellitus and tumors of the lymphatic system or the skin.
When should you go to the doctor?
If there are sudden changes in the skin’s appearance, there is cause for concern. If there is an unpleasant sensation of pain and the abnormalities spread, a doctor’s visit is necessary. A doctor is required in the event of a sudden fever, the formation of edema or a general feeling of illness. Pain in the joints or impairment of the range of motion are considered unusual. You should see a doctor as soon as symptoms persist or worsen. A feeling of warmth near the joints indicates a health disorder that should be treated.
Characteristic of Sweet’s syndrome is the development of small red bumps. In most patients, swelling develops in the upper body area. The head, torso, arms and neck are often affected first. Nevertheless, skin changes also develop in other parts of the body. A doctor should be consulted so that a diagnosis can be made and a treatment plan can be developed.
If you have circulatory problems, dizziness or general weakness, you should consult a doctor. If emotional or mental problems occur due to the optical changes, a doctor is also required. A therapist should be consulted in the event of behavioral problems, withdrawal from social life and increasing feelings of inferiority. In addition to medical care, the person concerned also needs psychological support in these cases.
Treatment & Therapy
Sweet’s syndrome can go away on its own without treatment. However, medications help to dramatically speed up the healing process. The most commonly used medications are corticosteroids, which come in a variety of flavors. Oral pills work very well, but they affect the entire body.
Long-term use can cause side effects such as weight gain, insomnia, and weakened bones. Creams or ointments only work on the part of the skin they are applied to. They are therefore used for locally limited symptoms. However, they can lead to thinning of the skin.
Alternatively, a small amount of corticosteroid can be injected directly into each lesion. However, this method is effective only in patients whose number of lesions is rather small. Other medications are sometimes prescribed, mostly for people who do not tolerate long-term corticosteroid therapy well. Some of the most commonly prescribed drugs as an alternative to corticosteroids are dapsone, potassium iodide, and colchicine.
Since in most cases the causes of Sweet’s syndrome are unknown, prevention is difficult. If the disease occurs as a result of certain medications, stopping the medication and possible alternatives should be discussed with a doctor.
In any case, a dermatologist should be consulted at an early stage in order to cushion the course of the disease. If a tumor disease with accompanying Sweet’s syndrome was present in the past, a recurrence of the skin disease can indicate a relapse of the disease.
Depending on the type and severity of the symptoms, aftercare for Sweet’s syndrome includes various steps that need to be discussed in detail with the doctor. If skin symptoms persist, a dermatologist must be consulted. Follow-up care includes regular skin examinations as well as any additional examinations. In addition, the doctor conducts a patient consultation in order to be able to get as comprehensive a picture as possible of the patient’s current symptoms.
If Sweet’s syndrome occurs in conjunction with joint pain or inflammation, drug treatment is necessary. Drug therapy must be strictly monitored by a doctor. After recovery, it is important to taper off the prescribed preparations. If necessary, a physiotherapist can be involved, for example in the case of persistent movement disorders due to joint inflammation.
With comprehensive treatment, Sweet’s syndrome should be cured within a few weeks. Further follow-up care is usually not necessary. However, there are situations in which follow-up care must be maintained. The general practitioner or an internist is responsible for aftercare.
Depending on the symptoms, dermatologists, ENT doctors and orthopedists as well as physiotherapists are also involved in the aftercare. Side effects may occur after taking immunosuppressants and glucocorticoids. Any side effects will be clarified as part of the aftercare. If further symptoms occur after therapy and aftercare, the doctor must be informed.
You can do that yourself
If signs of Sweet’s syndrome are noticed, a doctor should be consulted first. Symptoms such as fever and skin changes must be treated with medication before self-help measures can be taken.
After the complaints have been treated by a doctor, rest and protection are recommended. In the case of fever, the usual general measures apply. The patient must take it easy and relieve the fever with cooling surcharges and an adjusted diet consisting of bland food and plenty of fluids. The skin can be treated with various natural remedies such as aloe vera or essential oils. A gentle product should be used for deposits on the eyes or in the intimate area. The doctor in charge can make recommendations and, if necessary, seek the advice of a naturopath.
At the same time, the cause of the complaints must be determined. In most cases, taking certain medications is responsible for Sweet’s syndrome. These drugs must be stopped to treat symptoms over the long term. Especially in rheumatic diseases and acute myeloid leukemia, Sweet’s syndrome occurs more frequently. Those who belong to the risk groups should pay particular attention to any signs of the disease. If in doubt, a doctor should be consulted.