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Sweet's syndrome

Sweet's syndrome — also known as acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis — is a rare skin condition marked by fever and painful skin lesions that appear mainly on your arms, neck, face and back.

The exact cause of Sweet's syndrome isn't always known. In some people, it's triggered by an infection, illness or certain medications. Sweet's syndrome can also occur with some types of cancer.

The most common treatment for Sweet's syndrome is corticosteroid pills, such as prednisone. Signs and symptoms often disappear just a few days after treatment begins, but recurrence is common.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Sweet's syndrome is marked by an abrupt eruption of small red bumps on your arms, neck, face or back — often after a fever or upper respiratory infection. The bumps grow quickly in size, spreading into painful clusters up to an inch or so in diameter.

When to see a doctor

If you develop a painful, red rash that quickly grows in size, see your doctor for appropriate treatment.

In most cases, the cause of Sweet's syndrome isn't known. Sweet's syndrome is sometimes associated with cancer, most often leukemia. A few cases may be associated with a solid tumor, such as breast or colon cancer. Sweet's syndrome may also occur as a reaction to a medication — most commonly a type of drug that boosts production of white blood cells.

Sweet's syndrome is uncommon, but certain factors increase your risk, including:

  • Your sex. Women are more likely to have Sweet's syndrome than men.
  • Your age. Though older adults and even infants can develop Sweet's syndrome, the condition mainly affects women between the ages of 30 and 50.
  • Cancer. Sweet's syndrome is sometimes associated with cancer, most often leukemia. A few cases may be associated with a solid tumor, such as breast or colon cancer.
  • Other health problems. Sweet's syndrome often follows an upper respiratory infection, and many people report having flu-like symptoms before the rash appears. Sweet's syndrome can also be associated with inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Pregnancy. Some women develop Sweet's syndrome during pregnancy. In these cases, the condition usually clears without treatment.

There is a risk of the skin lesions becoming infected. Follow your doctor's recommendations for caring for the affected skin.

In cases where Sweet's syndrome is associated with cancer, the eruptions of the lesions may be the first sign of cancer either appearing or recurring.

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