Hospital Consult

DRESS Syndrome: Clinical Myths and Pearls

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Pearl: DRESS patients need to be monitored for long-term sequelae such as autoimmune disease.

Several autoimmune conditions may develop as a delayed complication of DRESS syndrome, including autoimmune thyroiditis, systemic lupus erythematosus, type 1 diabetes mellitus, and autoimmune hemolytic anemia.24-26 Incidence rates of autoimmunity following DRESS syndrome range from 3% to 5% among small case series.24,25

Autoimmune thyroiditis, which may present as Graves disease, Hashimoto thyroiditis, or painless thyroiditis, is the most common autoimmune disorder to develop in DRESS patients and appears from several weeks to up to 3 years after DRESS.24 Therefore, all DRESS patients should be monitored longitudinally for several years for signs or symptoms suggestive of an autoimmune condition.5,24,26

Because no guidelines exist regarding serial monitoring for autoimmune sequelae, it may be reasonable to check thyroid function tests at the time of diagnosis and regularly for at least 2 years after diagnosis.5 Alternatively, clinicians may consider an empiric approach to laboratory testing that is guided by the development of clinical symptoms.

Pearl: Small cases series suggest differences between adult and pediatric DRESS syndrome, but there are no large studies in children.

Small case series have suggested there may be noteworthy differences between DRESS syndrome in adults and children. Although human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) positivity in DRESS syndrome in adults may be as high as 80%, 13% of pediatric patients in one cohort tested positive for HHV-6, though the study size was limited at 29 total patients.27 In children, DRESS syndrome secondary to antibiotics was associated with a shorter latency time as compared to cases secondary to nonantibiotics. In contrast to the typical 2- to 6-week timeline, Sasidharanpillai et al28 reported an average onset 5.8 days after drug administration in antibiotic-associated DRESS syndrome compared to 23.9 days for anticonvulsants, though this study only included 11 total patients. Other reports have suggested a similar trend.27

The role of HHV-6 positivity in pediatric DRESS syndrome and its influence on prognosis remains unclear. One study showed a worse prognosis for pediatric patients with positive HHV-6 antibodies.27 However, with such a small sample size—only 4 HHV-6–positive patients of 29 pediatric DRESS cases—larger studies are needed to better characterize the relationship between HHV-6 positivity and prognosis.

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