Your dermatologist might be able to diagnose Sweet's syndrome simply by looking at the lesions. But you're likely to have certain tests to rule out conditions that have similar symptoms and to search for the underlying cause. These tests 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 may remove 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.
Sweet's syndrome may go away without treatment. But medications can speed the process dramatically.
The most common medications used for Sweet's syndrome are corticosteroids, which come in a variety of forms, including:
- 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 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 a great number of lesions.
Sometimes other medications are prescribed for Sweet's syndrome, usually for people who don't tolerate long-term corticosteroid use well. Some of the more commonly prescribed medication alternatives to corticosteroids are:
- 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?
Nov. 21, 2018
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- Herbert Cohen D, et al. Sweet's syndrome. The Journal of Emergency Medicine. 2015;49:e95.
- Rochet NM, et al. Sweet syndrome: Clinical presentation, associations, and response to treatment in 77 patients. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2013;69:557.
- Goldman L, et al., eds. Macular, popular, vesiculobullous and pustular diseases. In: Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 24, 2015.
- Merola, JF. Sweet syndrome (acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis): Management and prognosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 24, 2015.
- Merola, JF. Sweet syndrome (acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis): Pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 24, 2015.
- Bolognia JL, et al. Neutrophilic dermatoses. In: Dermatology Essentials. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Sept. 29, 2015.
- Saag KG, et al. Major side effects of systemic glucocorticoids. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Sept. 24, 2015.
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