Sweet’s syndrome, also known as acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis, is a type of rare skin condition which is chiefly characterized by a sudden onset of fever and painful skin lesions or rashes on the arms, legs, trunk, face, or neck. The disease is named after Dr. Robert Douglas Sweet who was the first person to describe this rare disorder in the year 1964.
Sweet’s syndrome is classified into three main types, namely:
Classic or idiopathic: This type of sweet’s syndrome happens due to an underlying medical condition like upper respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections or even pregnancy.
Malignancy-associated: Type of sweet’s syndrome that generally stems from some type of cancerous condition including leukemia.
Drug-induced: The drug-related form usually happens due to overuse, altercation or side-effect of a medication including antibiotics, NSAIDS and granulocyte colony-stimulating factors (G-CSF), which stimulates your body to make neutrophils.
The absolute cause of Sweet's syndrome is still undiscovered but certain studies and researches suggest that it is most often associated or related to leukemia or blood cancer. Apart from leukemia, it can also happen due to colon cancer or breast cancer. Sweet’s syndrome is a type of auto-inflammatory disease that often happens due to the malfunctioning of the body’s own immune system, i.e. an underlying systemic disease like inflammation, infection or other health conditions that can unknowingly trigger this syndrome. It can also happen due to an allergic reaction to certain medications that boost the production of white blood cells, which might behave abnormally and eventually turn against the healthy cells of the body.
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of Sweet’s syndrome include:
Age: Although Sweet’s syndrome is mainly diagnosed in people between the ages of 30 to 60, it is also found in infants and older adults.
Gender: Women are more prone to have Sweet's syndrome than men.
Other Forms Of Cancer: People diagnosed with other forms of cancer like leukemia, colon cancer or breast cancer have aggravated risks of developing sweet’s syndrome.
Health Conditions: Sweet's syndrome is more common in people suffering from an upper respiratory infection like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease or flu.
Pregnancy: Even pregnant women can sometimes develop Sweet's syndrome during pregnancy.
Drug Sensitivity: Side-effects due to some antibiotics or NSAID's can often cause sweet’s syndrome.
The primary symptom of Sweet’s syndrome is chiefly characterized by swollen painful red lesions on the face, neck, back, or arms. These swollen rashes or bumps can grow in size quickly, and can even show up in clusters that can grow to about an inch in diameter. The lesions often have a clear ring-like blister around it, giving it a target-like appearance. Other common symptoms of sweet’s syndrome include:
- Sores or tumors on the skin and mouth
- Discoloration of the skin
- Muscle and joint pain
- General debility
Diagnosis And Treatment
On noticing any of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, do visit a doctor right away to get it diagnosed for an early treatment. The doctor or dermatologist usually does a thorough physical check-up to analyse the lesions carefully, acknowledges the patients past medical history and conducts some tests to rule out conditions with similar symptoms. Other diagnostics carried out by the doctor include:
- Blood Tests: To look for unusual number of white blood cells
- Skin Biopsy
Although in some cases, the symptoms of sweet's syndrome may go away naturally after a few days, medications can actively speed up the healing process. The available treatment options include:
- Oral corticosteroids in the form of pills
- Application of prescribed creams and ointments on the lesions
- Injectable corticosteroids