Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Eczema Herpeticum?
This is a rare serious inflammatory skin disease that is considered very dangerous. There are many different scenarios in which eczema herpeticum can be fatal. It can recur many different times, the first outbreak of eczema herpeticum is usually the most dangerous. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or race. When a person gets eczema herpeticum it will usually last for fourteen days but can last for up to six weeks. It was first described in the 1880’s by Moritz Kaposi. Eczema herpeticum is also referred to as Kaposi’s variceliform eruption (KVE) after the person who first described it. It also has two other names which are pustulosis acuta varioliform juliusberg and Kaposi-Juliusberg’s disease. This infection is contagious and can be spread by physical contact.
Eczema Herpeticum Symptoms
Many times when a person has eczema herpeticum they are not aware of having the infection. Usually the symptoms are seen in people who have a weakened immune system. If there are symptoms they will usually appear five to twelve days after being exposed to the virus that causes this skin infection. The organs of the body that are affected by this disease are your lungs, brain, liver, and eyes. Some of the symptoms that can be seen can include:
- Your entire body is filled with inflammation that is severe and painful.
- There are formations of small blisters that appear in the form of clusters. These blisters are filled with water. They can end up bleeding and infecting the surrounding areas of your skin.
- The blisters will usually cause a fever and are extremely painful.
- As the infection starts to spread your lymph nodes tend to swell.
- The skin that has been damaged develops a secondary bacterial infection.
- You may also have malaise and chills
Within seven to ten days after developing this infection you will start to see new patches around your body. These patches are infected with either Staphylococcus or Streptococcus. As the infection continues to spread, the lesions become crusty and are filled with pus. If they are not treated early enough they can start to bleed.
If you do not seek immediate medical treatment this infection can cause many severe complications such as:
- Eyes – it can lead to scarring and cause blindness
- Systemic infection – this can lead to internal organs being damaged and organ failure which could become a life-threatening condition.
- Skin – it can become vulnerable to the Staphylococcus aureus infection making treatment extremely difficult and your condition extremely serious.
The most dangerous complication is called “super infection” and occurs when the bacteria S. Aureus invades an area in which there is already an eczema herpeticum infection. Even with the right medical treatment it could still lead to death.
Eczema herpeticum is caused when the herpes simplex virus attacks a part of your skin where there is some other medical condition already exists. Usually the area that is usually attacked is where there is eczema. This is the underlying medical condition that is most common to cause eczema herpeticum. The eczema herpeticum infection develops when the herpes simplex virus attacks the out layer of your skin. In addition to eczema, which is atopic dermatitis, being the cause for this skin condition there are also others that could be the underlying cause. It could because other skin infections that are known as atopic dermatitis, damage to the outer layer of your skin because of second degree burns, skin grafts, pemphigus, sunburn, or injury to the skin.
Because eczema herpeticum is such a rare skin disease and in the early stages it is possible that it can be mistaken for a severe eczema outbreak instead. If you think that you have eczema herpeticum and not a severe eczema outbreak you should see your physician right away. Diagnosing this skin condition early and treating it is crucial because of all the dangerous complications that can develop from eczema herpeticum. In order to make a positive diagnosis the physician will take a sample of the fluid from one of the lesions for testing. If your physician feels you may have eczema herpeticum they may start treatment before they get the results back as a precaution.
Normally eczema herpeticum is treated using antiviral medications. Two that are used are called acyclovir or valacyclovir. This antiviral medication is good at slowing down the advance of herpes but it not a cure. It will just help your body fight virus. If the situation is serious your physician may decide to give the medication intravenously to help speed the healing process up. As a precautionary measure often the physician will also give you an antibiotic medication as a precaution against the potential of getting the super infection. Most of the time eczema herpeticum is treated in the hospital and because it is a contagious disease you will usually be put in an isolation ward.