Diagnosis

A doctor who specializes in skin conditions (dermatologist) might be able to diagnose Sweet's syndrome simply by looking at your skin. But you may need testing before your doctor can make a definite diagnosis. Tests that are useful in assessing people for Sweet's syndrome include:

  • Blood tests. A sample of your blood may be sent to a laboratory where it's checked for an unusually large number of white blood cells and certain blood disorders.
  • Skin biopsy. Your doctor removes a small piece of affected tissue for examination under a microscope. The tissue is analyzed to determine whether it has the characteristic abnormalities of Sweet's syndrome.

More Information

Treatment

Sweet's syndrome might go away without treatment. But medications can speed the process. The most common medications used for this condition are corticosteroids:

  • Pills. Oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone, work very well but will affect your entire body. Unless you only have a few lesions, you'll likely need to take oral corticosteroids. Long-term use can cause side effects, such as weight gain, insomnia and weakened bones.
  • Creams or ointments. These preparations usually affect just the portion of skin where they're applied, but they can cause thinning skin.
  • Injections. Another option is to inject a small amount of corticosteroid right into each lesion. This may be less feasible for people who have many lesions.

You'll need to take the drug for several weeks to prevent relapse. If long-term corticosteroid use is a problem for you, ask your doctor about other prescription medications that might help. Some common alternatives to corticosteroids are:

  • Dapsone
  • Potassium iodide
  • Colchicine (Colcrys, Mitigare)

Preparing for your appointment

Your primary care doctor is likely to refer you to a dermatologist for diagnosis and treatment of Sweet's syndrome. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

Before your appointment, make a list of:

  • Symptoms you've been having and for how long, including those that seem unrelated to your rash
  • All medications, vitamins and supplements you take, including doses
  • Questions to ask your doctor

If you have symptoms of Sweet's syndrome, questions you may want to ask include:

  • What might be causing my rash?
  • What tests do I need to confirm the diagnosis?
  • Is this condition temporary or long-lasting?
  • What treatment options are available, and which do you recommend for me?
  • What side effects can I expect from treatment?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
  • What if I just wait to see if my signs and symptoms go away on their own?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • When did your skin symptoms start?
  • Did they come on suddenly or gradually?
  • What did the rash look like when it first appeared?
  • Is the rash painful?
  • Does anything make your symptoms better?
  • Does anything make your symptoms worse?
  • Were you sick before the rash started?
  • What medical problems have you had?
  • Do you have other symptoms that started about the same time?
  • What medications do you take?
  • Did the skin lesions start in the days or weeks after you started a new medication?
Dec. 19, 2020
  1. AskMayoExpert. Acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis (Sweet syndrome). Mayo Clinic; 2020.
  2. Kang S, et al., eds. Sweet syndrome. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology. 9th ed. McGraw Hill; 2019. https://www.accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Oct. 23, 2020.
  3. Dinulos JGH. Hypersensitivity syndromes and vasculitis. In: Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.
  4. James WD, et al. Erythema and urticarial. In: Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Oct. 22, 2020.
  5. Rochet NM, et al. Sweet syndrome: Clinical presentation, associations, and response to treatment in 77 patients. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2013; doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2013.06.023.
  6. Merola JF. Sweet syndrome (acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis): Pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Oct. 9, 2020.
  7. Saag KG. Major side effects of systemic glucocorticoids. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Nov. 9, 2020.
  8. Goldstein BG, et al. Topical corticosteroids: Use and adverse effects. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Nov. 9, 2020.

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