A brief description of Sweet’s Syndrome

Updated 25/09/17.

This is a brief description of Sweet’s syndrome that you can share with friends and family.

What is Sweet’s Syndrome?

Sweet’s syndrome (SS) is a rare autoinflammatory condition and form of neutrophilic dermatosis that causes fever; painful skin lesions; fatigue; headaches; muscle pain; joint pain (arthralgia); joint pain and swelling (arthritis); eye problems; sometimes, mouth ulcers. You may experience it once, or have repeat flare-ups. Most lesions appear on the face, neck, and upper extremities, but can develop on other parts of the body. However, lesions are not always present. On rare occasions, the lesions can develop in internal joints and organs causing a variety of other symptoms. There are also several variant (unusual) forms of SS.

What causes it?

The cause of SS is not fully understood, but involves errors in the innate immune system. There are also potential triggers. These include infection; cancer; autoimmune conditions; inflammatory bowel disease; medications; pregnancy; skin damage; immunodeficiency; overexposure to sunlight or ultraviolet light; vaccination. In regards to the latter, SS caused by vaccination is very rare – only 12 cases reported in medical literature in the past 42 years, globally – and a definite connection between the SS and vaccination was not established in some of those cases.

How is it diagnosed?

  • A diagnosis of SS is made by taking your medical history to see if you have any health conditions or are taking any medications that could cause it.
  • Your temperature will be taken. SS patients normally have a fever of 38 degrees centigrade or above.
  • Your dermatologist will need to take a lesion sample (biopsy) for detailed microscopic examination to rule out any other conditions that might be confused with SS.
  • Blood tests will be needed to detect any inflammation or infection in the body, and some additional tests might be needed to rule out other conditions as a cause for SS.

How is it treated?

Steroid medication, e.g. prednisone, is the main form of treatment. Other treatments include colchicine, potassium iodide, dapsone, indomethacin, clofazimine, ciclosporin, and others.

© 2012-2017 Sweet’s Syndrome UK


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