A 22-year-old Caucasian man with a history of atopic dermatitis (AD) was referred to our dermatology clinic for evaluation of a diffuse facial rash that had been present for the previous 7 days. The rash initially presented as erythema on the right malar cheek that rapidly spread to the entire face. Initially diagnosed as impetigo, empiric treatment with sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (800 mg/160 mg PO BID for 7 days), dicloxacillin (500 mg PO BID for 6 days), cephalexin (500 mg TID for 5 days), and mupirocin (2% topical cream applied TID for 6 days) failed to improve the patient’s symptoms. He reported mild pain associated with facial movements.
The patient had a history of similar (but more limited) rashes, which he described as “recurrent impetigo,” that began during his career as a high school and collegiate wrestler. These rashes were different from the rashes he described as his history of AD, which consisted of pruritic and erythematous skin in his antecubital and popliteal fossae. He denied any history of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection.
A physical examination revealed numerous monomorphic, 1- to 3-mm, punched-out erosions and ulcers with overlying yellow-brown crust encompassing the patient’s entire face and portions of his anterior neck. Several clustered vesicles on erythematous bases also were noted (FIGUREs 1A and 1B). We used a Dermablade to unroof some of the vesicles and sent the scrapings to the lab for Tzanck, direct fluorescent antibody assay (DFA), and HSV polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.