Erythema • Causes of reddening of the skin

Erythema is a reddening of the skin that arises as a result of the widening of vessels within the skin. Possible causes range from a high level of excitement to vaccinations and infections. When erythema is considered a sign of disease and what treatment is possible.

Medically, a visible reddening of the skin is called erythema or erythema. It occurs when the skin is supplied with increased blood flow locally – a common cause is inflammation, but drugs can also lead to reddening of the skin due to vasodilatation.

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What is an erythema?

Basically any reddening of the skin is called erythema or erythema in medicine. It belongs to the group of macula (spot), so there are changes in skin color. In the case of erythema, the skin is reddened due to a change in blood flow caused by widening of the vessels within the skin. It can vary widely in terms of size and color. If the doctor speaks of an erythematous disease, it means that the disease resembles an erythema or is accompanied by reddening of the skin.

Some reddened skin are typical symptoms of certain diseases. That is why they have their own name and are differentiated as follows:

  • Erythema migrans: Skin manifestation of Lyme disease

  • Erythema nodosum (Nodular rose): inflammation of the subcutaneous tissue caused by tuberculosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sarcoid, or rheumatic fever.

  • Erythema exsudativum multiforme (Disc rose): Disc-shaped skin change with a bluish center that occurs in allergic reactions.

  • Plantar and palmar erythema (Palmar syndrome): Extensive reddening of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet usually indicates a chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis of the liver; the syndrome can also occur in rheumatoid arthritis or endocarditis.

  • Erythema anulare rheumaticum: A ring-shaped erythema with a bluish-reddish color on the trunk that occurs with rheumatic fever and rheumatic endocarditis.

  • Erythema pernio (Chilblains): Roundish, reddish-blue colored skin swellings that are caused by cold and that itch and burn when heated.

  • Butterfly erythema: Characteristic reddening of the skin in lupus erythematosus

  • Windelerythem: Reddening of the skin in the diaper area in babies with diaper rash.

Special form of butterfly erythema on the face

The symmetrical reddening of the skin on the face is reminiscent of the shape of a butterfly, which is why it is also known as butterfly erythema. Typically, it occurs on the nose, forehead, and cheeks. The reddening of the skin occurs primarily in lupus erythematosus and other autoimmune diseases such as Graves’ disease and leads to the formation of small blisters and scales.

Causes of reddening of the skin

There are a variety of causes of erythema. In addition to more harmless reasons such as stress, which only cause reddening of the skin for a short time, there are other triggers:

  • Mental stress (reddening of the skin on the face)
  • Sport and physical exertion
  • Reactions to drugs such as antibiotics, antifungal drugs, or antivirals
  • Reaction to physical stimuli such as UV rays (UV erythema in sunburn) or burns and frostbite (frostbite)
  • Inflammation
  • Infectious diseases
  • Skin disorders
  • Immediate type allergic reactions

Erythema with COVID-19 and after corona vaccination

Similar to other viral infections, skin changes can also occur with a corona infection. Skin rashes with reddening of the skin and blistering are frequently observed, and changes on the toes similar to frostbite (COVID toes) are possible. In very rare cases, allergic reactions can occur with a corona vaccination, in which, for example, reddening of the skin can appear shortly after the injection.

Concomitant symptoms and complaints

An erythema manifests itself as a visible reddening of the skin, which usually occurs on parts of the body with good blood circulation, for example the arms, legs or face. The erythema can be temporarily discolored by pressure and is thus different from skin bleeding.

Depending on the underlying disease, the erythema can also lead to pain, skin changes and itching. This is especially true of eczema, skin bleeding and more serious illnesses as the cause. Sensitivity disorders are also possible with extensive reddening of the skin. If the erythema is left untreated, it can grow in size and spread to other parts of the body. Those affected should therefore consult a doctor at an early stage, especially if the cause of the reddening of the skin is not known.

Diagnose des Erythems

As a rule, a visual diagnosis is sufficient to determine an erythema. In order to determine the extent and severity of the reddening of the skin, the doctor will examine the size, color intensity and extent. The cause of the skin change can be determined on the basis of questions about other symptoms and possibly already known previous illnesses.

The most important differential diagnoses for skin reddening are skin haemorrhage, eczema and erythroderma. With this severe inflammation, almost the entire surface of the skin is reddened. Erythroderma usually develops from another skin disease and, if left untreated, can become life-threatening due to severe fluid and protein loss.

Treatment of redness of the skin

Depending on the cause and severity of the reddening, it can be treated. If psychological factors are decisive for reddened facial skin, the reddening usually disappears on its own after the excitement and stress have subsided.

In the case of burns and sunburn, the reddening of the skin is relieved with cooling measures and in mild cases disappears by itself after a few days. If chilblains have formed as a result of the cold and wet, the affected areas of the skin should be kept warm – the skin changes usually go away on their own.

Infections, skin diseases and other underlying diseases must be treated with appropriate medication.

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Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by

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