Type your tag names separated by a space and hit enter

Dermatitis, Exfoliative

Dermatitis, Exfoliative is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

To view the entire topic, please or purchase a subscription.

Medicine Central™ is a quick-consult mobile and web resource that includes diagnosis, treatment, medications, and follow-up information on over 700 diseases and disorders, providing fast answers—anytime, anywhere. Explore these free sample topics:

Medicine Central

-- The first section of this topic is shown below --


  • Exfoliative dermatitis (ED), also known as erythroderma, is a rare and severe cutaneous disorder characterized by generalized erythema involving >90% of the skin and variable degree of scaling.
  • It may develop idiopathically (primary erythroderma) or secondary to preexisting skin disorders, malignancies, infections, and drugs (secondary erythroderma).
  • ED may appear suddenly or gradually, and can be accompanied by fever, chills, malaise, and lymphadenopathy.
  • When fulminant, ED is potentially life-threatening.


  • ED can be acute or chronic and follow a relapsing and remitting course. Cutaneous involvement consists of widespread redness (>90% of total body surface) and exfoliation (skin peels off).
  • System(s) affected: skin/exocrine
  • Synonym(s): erythroderma; exfoliative erythroderma; red man syndrome (l’homme rouge).


  • In the United States: rare; estimated 1% of hospitalizations for skin disease
  • Predominant age: 40 to 60 years, except when it results from hereditary ichthyoses or immunodeficiencies, which are most common in the pediatric age group
  • Predominant sex: male > female (2:1 to 4:1)
  • No racial predilection

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Idiopathic condition in up to 20–30% of cases. Exacerbation of a preexisting dermatosis is the most common known cause of ED in adults. It can also occur secondary to a systemic disease, drug reaction, infection, or malignancy (see “Commonly Associated Conditions”).
  • The mechanisms behind generalization of preexisting skin disease is not well understood. In erythrodermic skin, keratinocytes exhibit an increased mitotic rate and increased transit time through the epidermis.

Risk Factors

  • Underlying diseases and certain medications (see “Commonly Associated Conditions”)
  • Male sex
  • Age >40 years

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Most common associated diseases and medications that present with or develop into ED include the following:
    • Psoriasis (most common cause in adults)
    • Atopic dermatitis
    • Contact (allergic and irritant) dermatitis
    • Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL, mycosis fungoides)
    • Pityriasis rubra pilaris
    • Drug reaction (most common cause in children)
      • ACE inhibitors, allopurinol, antibiotics (mainly β-lactams and vancomycin), antimalarials, barbiturates, carbamazepine, cimetidine, codeine, dapsone, gold salts, isoniazid, lamotrigine, lithium, NSAIDs, phenothiazine, phenytoin, and proton pump inhibitors and sulfonamides
  • Less commonly associated disorders:
    • Graft-versus-host disease
    • Infections (e.g., HIV, Norwegian scabies)
    • Fungal disease with id reaction
    • Seborrheic dermatitis
    • Ichthyosiform dermatoses
    • Bullous disorders (e.g., pemphigus foliaceus)
    • Reiter syndrome
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus
    • Hailey-Hailey disease
    • Dermatomyositis
    • Malignancy (paraneoplastic ED)
      • Sézary syndrome (leukemic variant of mycosis fungoides)
      • Hodgkin disease
      • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia
      • Cancer of lung, colon, prostate, and thyroid

-- To view the remaining sections of this topic, please or purchase a subscription --


Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Dermatitis, Exfoliative." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816157/all/Dermatitis_Exfoliative.
Dermatitis, Exfoliative. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816157/all/Dermatitis_Exfoliative. Accessed June 27, 2019.
Dermatitis, Exfoliative. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816157/all/Dermatitis_Exfoliative
Dermatitis, Exfoliative [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 June 27]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816157/all/Dermatitis_Exfoliative.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Dermatitis, Exfoliative ID - 816157 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/816157/all/Dermatitis_Exfoliative PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -