Sweet’s syndrome is an inflammatory condition that involves the entire body including the skin. This condition is related to the appearance of immune cells called neutrophils in the skin. This syndrome can have many different manifestations in the skin and body and can involve many different body parts.
A classic form of Sweet’s syndrome in the skin would be the presence of swollen red to purplish raised bumps on the face, arms or hands. Typically Sweet’s syndrome will be associated with a sudden onset of fever, and an alternative name for the condition is acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis.
The criteria for the diagnosis of the classical form of Sweet’s syndrome is as follows:
- Sudden development of characteristic painful and red lesions (plaques and nodules).
- A biopsy that shows that there are dense neutrophils in the skin without inflammation of the blood vessels.
- Fever that is defined as a temperature that is greater than 38 degrees Celsius or 100.4 degrees Farenheit.
- Improves with treatment through the use of steroids or potassium iodide.
- The patient is found or known to have a blood or body cancer, an inflammatory condition, is pregnant, OR is known to have had a cold, stomach flu, or had a vaccination prior to the development of the symptoms.
- Has three of the four following abnormal laboratory values:
- High erythrocyte sedimentation rate (>20 mm/hr)
- Positive C-reactive protein
- A white blood cell count of greater than 8,000
- A white blood cell count profile of greater than 70% neutrophils.
The diagnosis requires that both of the major criteria are met and that 2 of the 4 minor criteria are met.
The cause for Sweet’s syndrome is unknown. Often Sweet’s syndrome occurs in conjunction with an infection but can also occur with malignancy, immune system disorders, medication, or pregnancy.
Because Sweet’s syndrome can occur in association with many other disorders, it is important that a thorough evaluation is performed by a qualified health professional.
- Antinflammatory agents: Oral or intramuscular steroids are a typical treatment for Sweet's syndrome. Potassium iodide is also used as an anti-inflammatory agent.
- Medications that inhibit neutrophils: Dapsone and colchicine are also two medications often used due to their ability to inhibit the action of neutrophils.
1. Cohen PR. Sweet's syndrome--a comprehensive review of an acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis. Orphanet J Rare Dis.2007;2:34; PMID: 17655751.