A skin rash may be an indication of something as annoying, yet temporary, as a mosquito bite. Skin rashes may also indicate minor conditions such as an allergy to laundry soap, a run-in with poison ivy, or a reaction to excessive heat. However, some life-threatening diseases and conditions present with itchy, painful, or weepy rashes. Here are nine rare, yet dangerous, skin diseases that may cause painful and horrifying rashes.
9. DRESS Syndrome
Drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS) syndrome is a rare, yet painful reaction to a medication. This condition, also known as drug hypersensitivity syndrome, causes fever and organ damage in addition to a rash. Science Direct lists fever, lethargy, and upper respiratory symptoms as early signs of this reaction. Exposure to medications such as certain anti-seizure drugs, antibiotics, and gout meds can result in symptoms of this rare condition within one to six weeks. Treatment begins with discontinuing the offending drug. Doctors may also recommend hospitalization, dialysis, fluid replacement, and corticosteroids to treat this condition.
8. Meningococcal Meningitis
According to the CDC, infection with the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis causes meningococcal meningitis. Typical symptoms of meningitis include fever, headache, and a stiff neck. If meningitis infects the bloodstream, a patient may progress to meningococcal septicemia and bleeding beneath the skin. As the infection damages blood vessels, the patient may experience fever, chills, exhaustion, vomiting, muscle aches and pains, diarrhea, and a rash. The National Meningitis Association lists infants, persons living in crowded quarters, travelers to certain parts of Africa, and patients with asplenia as persons at risk for meningitis.
7. Necrotizing Fasciitis
The CDC describes necrotizing fasciitis as a rare bacterial infection likely caused by group A Streptococcus. When bacteria enter the skin through cuts, scrapes, burns, or insect bites, an infection can quickly spread. Contact your physician if you notice areas of redness or swelling that rapidly spread. Fever and severe pain are other symptoms that warrant medical attention. As this infection spreads, tissues begin to die, leaving behind ulcers or open wounds. These wounds may be black in color. Other symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis include dizziness, fatigue, diarrhea, and pus or drainage from the affected areas.
6. Pemphigus Vulgaris
According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, pemphigus vulgaris is an autoimmune disorder that tends to affect middle-aged or elderly individuals. This skin condition appears as soft, fluid-filled blisters on otherwise healthy-looking skin. Sometimes, the condition first shows up in the soft tissues of the mouth. These blisters are painful and can interfere with the affected person’s daily activities and routines. In some cases, certain blood pressure medications, antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory agents may cause pemphigus vulgaris. Treatment may consist of steroids, immunosuppressive agents, and immunotherapy drugs.
5. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
This bacterial infection is spread through tick bites. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever may include fever, chills, headache, muscle pains, nausea, vomiting, and confusion. The rash, which typically does not itch, may begin on the wrists and ankles and spread up and down the body from those locations. It is critical to treat Rocky Mountain spotted fever to prevent complications such as encephalitis, inflammation of the heart, kidney failure, and death. Doxycycline is often an effective antibiotic for the treatment of this infection.
4. Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome (SSSS)
SSSS is most commonly seen in children under the age of five. A weakened immune system or chronic kidney disease may also increase an individual’s risk of this rare condition. Johns Hopkins Medicine lists irritability, fatigue, fever, red skin, and painful, fluid-filled blisters as symptoms of this disease. Furthermore, the top layer of the affected child’s skin may peel away in large sheets. Treatment usually consists of antibiotics, IV fluids, tube feedings, pain medications, and wound care.
3. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS)
SJS is a rare skin condition resulting in a rash that forms blisters and then peels away. The Cleveland Clinic reports that patients with this condition are often treated in the burn units of hospitals. SJS may occur as a reaction to medications. In other cases, SJS appears to be an inherited condition. When a medication triggers SJS, that medicine is discontinued. Treatment may then consist of IV fluids, wound care, tube feedings, and antibiotics. Complications of SJS can include pneumonia, sepsis, organ failure, shock, and death.
2. Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN)
The Cleveland Clinic reports that some health experts believe SJS and TEN to be one disease, while others consider them to be different conditions. In any case, TEN is usually a more severe condition. Medscape states that SJS usually affects less than 10% of an afflicted person’s body surface, while TEN involves more than 30% of a person’s body surface. TEN also carries a higher risk of death. Treatment for TEN is similar to that for SJS, with admittance to the burn unit of a hospital. Here medical personnel can provide fluids, tube feedings, antibiotics, and extensive wound care.
1. Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)
The skin rash of toxic shock syndrome may resemble that of a sunburn. Other symptoms of TSS may include fever, lightheadedness, nausea, headache, muscle aches, and diarrhea. An infection with Staph. aureus bacteria causes this syndrome. According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors for TSS include cuts, burns, surgery, recent viral infections, and the use of superabsorbent tampons. It is critical to treat this infection in order to prevent complications such as shock, kidney failure, and death. Treatment for this infection may include antibiotics, IV fluids, and blood pressure medications.