Can medication trigger Sweet’s syndrome?
Yes. In up to 5% of cases, Sweet’s syndrome is triggered by medication (Cohen, 2007). This is known as drug-induced Sweet’s syndrome.
How will you know if your Sweet’s syndrome has been triggered by medication?
In at least 95% of patients with Sweet’s syndrome, their condition is not triggered by medication. However, drug-induced Sweet’s syndrome should be considered if:
- Your Sweet’s syndrome developed not long after a particular medication was started.
- Your Sweet’s syndrome has continued to persist for many months or years, even after treatment.
What will happen if your doctor thinks you have drug-induced Sweet’s syndrome?
Unfortunately, there is no special test to tell you whether or not your Sweet’s syndrome is being triggered by medication. However, if it is suspected that your Sweet’s syndrome is drug-induced, your doctor will:
- Stop the medication that is possibly causing your Sweet’s syndrome. Your Sweet’s syndrome should then start to settle down, but you may still need treatment.
- Re-introduce the medication (rechallenge) to see if your Sweet’s syndrome flares-up again. Sometimes, your doctor will decide that this is not necessary.
Why does medication trigger Sweet’s syndrome in some people?
Drug-induced Sweet’s syndrome is sometimes a hypersensitivity reaction to medication, but it can happen for other reasons too, e.g. a treatment causing hormonal changes. Read more here.
Is hypersensitivity reaction exactly the same as allergic reaction?
No, not always. Allergic reaction is a type of hypersensitivity reaction, but not all hypersensitivity reactions are the same as allergic reaction.
What is hypersensitivity reaction in Sweet’s syndrome?
Sweet’s syndrome is caused by errors in the innate immune system – the body’s most primitive, ‘hard-wired’ immune system, and a part of the immune system that doesn’t produce antibodies. Because of these errors, in some people with Sweet’s syndrome, their innate immune system responds to antigens – mainly proteins or sugars on the surface of a cell or a non-living substance, that a part of your immune system called the adaptive immune system sees as a foreign invader and produces antibodies in response to – in a way that it shouldn’t, i.e. is hypersensitive and goes into overdrive, overreacting to the presence of infectious, inflammatory, drug, or tumour cell antigens (Bhat et al, 2015: 257; Kasirye et al, 2011: 135). This means that the presence of antigens associated with certain health conditions, medications and vaccinations can potentially trigger Sweet’s syndrome by stimulating the innate immune system to produce cytokines, which eventually leads to the activation of white blood cells called neutrophils (Gosheger et al, 2002: 70). The neutrophils migrate to skin tissues and sometimes other tissues, even though they shouldn’t, causing skin lesions or other symptoms of Sweet’s syndrome.
What is allergic reaction?
The most common type of allergy is an IgE-mediated allergy. This is an adverse reaction that the body has to a particular substance that is foreign to the body, e.g. a food, pollen, or pet hair, that does not normally cause harm. This substance is known as an allergen (a type of antigen). Allergic reaction occurs when the immune system mistakes an allergen for a foreign invader such as a bacteria or virus. The adaptive immune system then quickly produces allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in response to this, in order to fight the allergen off. Chemicals such as histamine are also produced, with the overall immune response causing the symptoms of allergy.
What medications have been reported to have triggered Sweet’s syndrome?
Medications that have been reported to trigger Sweet’s syndrome include:
- Paracetamol (triggered a Sweet’s syndrome-like condition) (Culla et al, 2014).
- Amoxicillin (possibly) (Volpe, 2016).
- Clindamycin (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
- Doxycycline (Ibid).
- Minocycline (Cohen, 2007).
- Quinupristin/dalfopristin (Ibid).
- Piperacillin/tazobactam (Cruz- Velasquez et al, 2016).
- Carbamazepine (Cohen, 2007).
- Hydralazine (Cohen, 2007).
- Chloroquine (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
- Lithium (Xenophontos et al, 2016).
- Bortezomib (Llamas-Velasco et al, 2015).
- Decitabine (Kasirye et al, 2011: 134).
- Imatinib mesylate (Cohen, 2007).
- Ipilimumab (Gormley et al, 2014).
- Lenalidomide (Cohen, 2007).
- Obinutuzumab (triggered a Sweet’s syndrome-like condition) (Korman et al, 2016).
- Abacavir (Cohen, 2007).
- Acyclovir (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
Colony stimulating factors.
- Granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF). This is the most common treatment to trigger Sweet’s syndrome (Cohen, 2007).
- Granulocyte-macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF).
- Pegfilgrastim (Ibid).
- Levonorgestrel/ethinyl estradiol (Triphasil) (Cohen, 2007).
- Levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (Mirena).
- Furosemide (Cohen, 2007).
- Azathioprine (Salem et al, 2015). Sometimes, azathioprine-induced Sweet’s syndrome can be confused with azathioprine hypersensitivity syndrome (AHS) (Aleissa et al, 2017). This is a rare adverse reaction occurring a few days to weeks after azathioprine has been given. AHS can sometimes mimic Sweet’s syndrome, and an azathioprine rechallenge is not advised, as it may lead to a severe adverse reaction or even death.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Celecoxib (Cohen, 2007; Oh et al, 2016).
- Rofecoxib (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
- Diclofenac (Cohen, 2007; Gupta et al, 2015).
- Flurbiprofen (Bodamyalızade and Özkayalar, 2017). Flurbiprofen-induced Sweet’s syndrome may be confused with flurbiprofen-induced hypersensitivity syndrome or erythema multiforme.
Platelet aggregation inhibitors.
- Ticagrelor (Ikram and Veerappan, 2016).
- Esomeprazole (Cohen, 2015).
- Clozapine (Cohen, 2007).
- Amoxapine (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
- Lormetazepam (Ibid).
- All-trans retinoic acid (Cohen, 2007; Tam and Ingraffea, 2015).
- 13-cis-retinoic acid (isotretinoin) (Cohen, 2007).
- Sulfasalazine (Romdhane et al, 2016).
- Propylthiouracil (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
- Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG or tuberculosis) (Carpentier et al, 2002: 82; Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016). Two cases. One in 1986, occurring 15 days after vaccination, but the authors of the medical article that reported this did not control the tuberculin (Mantoux) test. One reported in 2002, occurring 10 days after vaccination.
- Streptococcus pneumonia (Carpentier et al, 2002: 82; Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016; Pedrosa et al, 2013). Two cases. One reported in 1990, occurring 4 days after vaccination following a splenectomy. One reported in 2013, and the first with the 13-valent conjugate vaccine.
- Smallpox (Carpentier et al, 2002: 82; Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016). Two cases reported in 1975, occurring 3 days after vaccination.
- Influenza (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016; Hali et al, 2010, Jovanovic et al, 2005; Tan el al, 2006; Wolf et al. 2009). Four cases. One reported in 2005; in 2006, one case of bullous Sweet’s syndrome following vaccination in a HIV-infected patient; in 2009, neutrophilic dermatosis of the hands occurring 12 hours after vaccination; in 2010, one case of Sweet’s syndrome after H1N1 influenza (swine flu) vaccination.
Sweet’s syndrome triggered by vaccination is incredibly rare (only 10 cases reported in medical literature, globally, in the past 42 years), and a definite connection has not been established in all reported cases.
If someone tells you that Sweet’s syndrome is triggered by vaccines because they are toxic or contain dangerous chemicals, then they either have no understanding of Sweet’s syndrome and vaccination, are not telling you the truth or are trying to scare you, and will have no evidence to support their claims. Sweet’s syndrome triggered by vaccination occurs because of errors in the innate immune system, and this part of the immune system responding to antigens in the way that it shouldn’t. It is nothing to do with vaccines being toxic.
Xanthine oxidase inhibitors.
- Allopurinol (Polimeni et al, 2015).
- X-ray contrast agents (Cruz-Velasquez et al, 2016).
Aleissa, M., Nicol, P., Godeau, M., Tournier, E., de Bellissen, F., Robic, M., Livideanu, C., Mazereeuw-Hautier, J. and Paul, C. (2017) Azathioprine Hypersensitivity Syndrome: Two Cases of Febrile Neutrophilic Dermatosis Induced by Azathioprine. Case Reports in Dermatology, Jan 19;9(1):6-11 (online).
Cohen, P. (2015) Proton pump inhibitor-induced Sweet’s syndrome: report of acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis in a woman with recurrent breast cancer. Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, April; 5(2):113–119 (online).
Cruz-Velásquez, G., Pac Sha, J., Simal Gil, E. and Gazulla, J. (2016). Aseptic meningitis and anti-β2-glycoprotein 1 antibodies in Sweet syndrome. Neurologia (Barcelona, Spain), Jul 21 (online). Article in Spanish, use translate.
Culla, T., Amayuelas, R., Diez-Canseco, M., Fernandez-Figueras, M., Giralt, C. and Vazquez, M. (2014) Neutrophilic dermatosis (Sweet’s syndrome-like) induced by paracetamol. Clinical and Translational Allergy, Jul; 4(Suppl 3): P83 (online).
Gormley, R., Wanat, K., Elenitsas, R., Giles, J., McGettingan, S., Schucher, L. and Takeshita, J. (2014) Ipilimumab-associated Sweet syndrome in a melanoma patient. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Nov;71(5):e211-3 (online).
Ikram, S. and Veerappan, V. (2016) Ticagrelor-induced Sweet Syndrome: an unusual dermatologic complication after percutaneous coronary intervention. Cardiovascular Intervention and Therapeutics, May 4th (PubMed).
Jovanovic, M., Poljacki, M., Vujanovic, L. and Duran, V. (2005) Acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis (Sweet’s syndrome) after influenza vaccination. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Feb;52(2):367-9 (PubMed).
Llamas-Velasco, M., Concha-Garcon, M., Fraga, J. and Arageus, M. (2015) Histiocytoid sweet syndrome related to bortezomib: A mimicker of cutaneous infiltration by myeloma. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology, May;81:305-6 (online).
Polimeni. G., Cardillo, R., Garaffo, E., Giardina, C., Macrì, R., Sirna, V., Guarneri, C. and Arcoraci, V. (2015) Allopurinol-induced Sweet’s syndrome. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, Dec 18th (PubMed).
Salem, C., Larif, S., Fathallah, N., Slim, R., Aounallah, A. and Hmouda, J. (2015) A rare case of azathioprine-induced Sweet’s syndrome in a patient with Crohn’s disease. Current Drug Safety, July (PubMed online).
Xenophontos, E., Ioannou, A., Constantinides, T. and Papanicolaou. E. (2016) Sweet syndrome on a patient with autoimmune hepatitis on azathioprine and CMV infection. Oxford Medical Case Reports, Feb; (2): 24–27 (online).
Cetin, G., Sayarlioglu, H., Erhan, C., Kahraman, H., Ciralik, H. and Sayarlioglu, M. (2014) A case of neutrophilic dermatosis who develop palpable purpura during the use of montelukast. European Journal of Dermatology, Dec; 1(4): 170–171 (online).
Oakley, A. (2015) Erythema Multiforme. DermNet NZ (online). Updated by Dr. Delwyn Dyall-Smith, 2009. Further updated by Dr. Amanda Oakley, October 2015. Accessed 5/06/17.
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