What are the signs and symptoms of potentially severe or life-threatening drug eruptions?

Updated: Oct 14, 2020
  • Author: Jonathan E Blume, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Although most drug eruptions are exanthematous, different types of drug eruptions are described.

With every drug eruption, it is important to evaluate for certain clinical features that may indicate a severe, potentially life-threatening drug reaction, such as TEN or hypersensitivity syndrome. Such features include the following:

  • Mucous membrane erosions

  • Blisters (Blisters herald a severe drug eruption.)

  • Nikolsky sign (epidermis sloughs with lateral pressure; indicates serious eruption that may constitute a medical emergency)

  • Confluent erythema

  • Angioedema and tongue swelling

  • Palpable purpura

  • Skin necrosis (see the image below)

    Warfarin (Coumadin) necrosis involving the leg. Warfarin (Coumadin) necrosis involving the leg.
  • Lymphadenopathy

  • High fever, dyspnea, or hypotension

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