Erythrodermic [eh-REETH-ro-der-mik] psoriasis is a particularly inflammatory form of psoriasis that often affects most of the body surface. It may occur in association with von Zumbusch pustular psoriasis. It is a rare type of psoriasis, occurring once or more during the lifetime of 3 percent of people who have psoriasis. It generally appears on people who have unstable plaque psoriasis. This means the lesions are not clearly defined. Widespread, fiery redness and exfoliation of the skin characterize this form. Severe itching and pain often accompanies it.
Individuals having an erythrodermic psoriasis flare should see a doctor immediately. This form of psoriasis can be life-threatening.
- Severe redness and shedding of skin over a large area of the body
- Exfoliation often occurs in large "sheets" instead of smaller scales
- Skin looks as if it has been burned
- Heart rate increases
- Severe itching and pain
- Body temperature goes up and down, especially on very hot or cold days
Erythrodermic psoriasis "throws off" the body's chemistry. This causes protein and fluid loss that can lead to severe illness. Edema (swelling from fluid retention), especially around the ankles, may develop, along with infection. The body may not be able to maintain its temperature. This can produce shivering episodes. Erythrodermic psoriasis also can bring on pneumonia and congestive heart failure. People with severe cases often require hospitalization. Erythrodermic psoriasis can occur abruptly at the first signs of psoriasis or it can come on gradually in people with plaque psoriasis. The reason erythrodermic psoriasis appears is not understood. However, there are some known triggers.
- Abrupt withdrawal of systemic treatment
- Severe sunburn
- Allergic, drug-induced rash that brings on the Koebner phenomenon (a tendency for psoriasis to appear on the site of skin injuries)
- Use of systemic steroids (cortisone)
- Emotional stress