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Diffuse erythematous rash resistant to treatment

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Our patient’s rash had spread to most of her body and returned after initial treatment attempts. A skin biopsy helped us to figure out why.



A 39-year-old woman presented to the emergency department for evaluation of diffuse redness, itching, and tenderness of her skin. The patient said the eruption began 4 months earlier as localized plaques on her scalp, elbows, and beneath both breasts. Over the course of a few days, the redness became more diffuse, affecting most of her body. She also noticed swelling and skin desquamation on her lower extremities.

The patient had visited multiple urgent care clinics and underwent several courses of prednisone with initial improvement of symptoms, but experienced recurrence shortly after finishing the tapers.

On physical examination, more than 95% of the patient’s skin was bright red and tender to the touch, with associated exfoliation (FIGURES 1A-1B). Her lower extremities had pitting edema with superficial erosions that were weeping serous fluid. She was afebrile and normotensive, but had shaking chills and was tachycardic, with a heart rate of 115 bpm. There was no nail pitting, pustules, or lymphadenopathy. Lab tests revealed a low albumin level of 2.2 g/dL (normal: 3.5-5.5 g/dL), an elevated white blood cell count of 14,700 cells/mcL (normal: 4500-11,000 cells/mcL), and normocytic anemia (low hemoglobin of 8.7 g/dL; normal: 12-15.5 g/dL). The patient was admitted.

An erythematous rash, with exfoliation, covers 95% of the patient's body image


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