Sweet Syndrome

Sweet syndrome is a rare condition that often occurs along with other medical problems. Treatment usually involves corticosteroid medications.


What is Sweet syndrome?

Sweet syndrome is a very rare inflammatory skin condition characterized by a sudden onset of fever and painful rash on the arms, legs, trunk, face, or neck. It’s also known as acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis.

In some cases, Sweet syndrome occurs with other medical conditions such as cancer, gastrointestinal infections, or pregnancy. Occasionally, Sweet syndrome results when people use certain medications. These include some antibiotics, like co-trimoxazole (Bactrim™), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like Advil®.

Treatment for Sweet syndrome involves corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, which are used to reduce inflammation. In most cases, medications reduce or get rid of symptoms. Treating the medical problem may resolve your symptoms if an underlying condition is causing Sweet syndrome.


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How common is Sweet syndrome?

Sweet syndrome is a rare medical condition. To date, several hundred cases have been reported.

Who is most at risk for getting Sweet syndrome?

Anyone can develop Sweet syndrome. Most people living with this condition are women between the ages of 30 and 50.


What complications are associated with Sweet syndrome?

In some cases, Sweet syndrome affects other organ systems in the body, like your nervous and gastrointestinal systems. Most commonly, eye problems occur. These may include eye inflammation, increased eye pressure (glaucoma), and corneal ulceration, or sores on your cornea.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes Sweet syndrome?

The cause of Sweet syndrome is unknown. Doctors use three categories to classify Sweet syndrome:

  • Classical: The disorder occurs with other medical conditions like upper respiratory infections, pregnancy, or gastrointestinal infections.
  • Malignancy-associated: Sweet syndrome appears with certain types of cancer, like acute myeloid leukemia.
  • Drug-induced: Certain medications trigger Sweet syndrome. These include some antibiotics, like Bactrim, NSAIDS and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF), which stimulates your body to make neutrophils, a type of immune system cell.


What are the symptoms of Sweet syndrome?

The symptoms of Sweet syndrome come on suddenly. They include:

  • Painful bumps or small blisters filled with pus on the face, neck, arms, or legs
  • Skin and mouth lesions (sores or tumors)
  • Skin discoloration
  • Fever
  • Muscle and joint pain, headache, and fatigue
  • General feeling of being unwell

Diagnosis and Tests

How is Sweet syndrome diagnosed?

Your doctor diagnoses Sweet syndrome by performing a thorough physical examination. Doctors may perform a skin biopsy if they can’t make a diagnosis after a physical exam. For a biopsy, your doctor takes a skin tissue sample and sends it to a laboratory for further evaluation. Other diagnostic information includes fever higher than 100.4, good response to steroids, history of concurrent malignancy, sickness, pregnancy and abnormal inflammatory blood markers.

Management and Treatment

How is Sweet syndrome treated?

Occasionally, Sweet syndrome resolves on its own without any medical treatment. For most people, treatment involves systemic (whole body) corticosteroid medications, like prednisone. These medications reduce inflammation and curb immune system activity. Corticosteroids prevent tissue damage by lowering levels of white blood cells and other parts of your immune system that fight infections.

If Sweet syndrome has an underlying cause, you’ll receive treatment for the underlying condition. Stopping the medications that cause symptoms can relieve drug-induced Sweet syndrome.

What should I expect after treatment for Sweet syndrome?

For most people, the rash and skin lesions caused by Sweet syndrome heal without scarring. Your skin may remain discolored for several months after symptoms disappear.


Can Sweet syndrome be prevented?

Because doctors don’t know what causes Sweet syndrome, it is not possible to prevent it.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the prognosis (outlook) for people with Sweet syndrome?

For most people, the symptoms of Sweet syndrome resolve on their own or with medical treatment. The symptoms may last for weeks or months. Symptoms may last longer if they result from an underlying medical condition or from a medication.

Living With

When should I call my doctor?

If you develop any symptoms of Sweet syndrome, or if your symptoms get worse, contact your doctor.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 02/27/2018.

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