Sweet’s Syndrome

What is Sweet’s Syndrome?

This medical condition is also known as acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis and it is a skin disorder that is caused by a buildup of neutrophils in the tissue that is located underneath the skin. Neutrophils are white blood cells that help to prevent infections by eradicating bacteria in the body.

The actual cause of this disorder is not completely known but this condition often appears when individuals have an infection, are diagnosed with certain medical conditions and after taking specific medications. People who have colon cancer, breast cancer and leukemia are also at risk.

What are the Symptoms of Sweet’s Syndrome?

Individuals who have Sweet’s syndrome will have painful red bumps on their body, most often on their face, neck, arms and legs. Some of the bumps will be flat, while others will have a raised appearance. As the lesions expand, they will grow together to form large, patchy areas on the skin.

Other symptoms of this disorder include joint and muscle pain, headaches, fever and feeling unwell. Individuals usually have a fever for several days before any of the other symptoms appear. If the condition advances, individuals may experience problems with their eyes, such as conjunctivitis, glaucoma and peripheral ulcerative keratitis.

Sweet’s Syndrome Causes

The exact cause of Sweet’s syndrome, otherwise known as the skin condition called acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis, remains unknown to scientists. Although the exact cause remains known, it is believed that the condition is a result of a complex web of contributing factors. Additionally, certain links have been made to the disease – mostly related to the functions of one’s immune system, as well as one’s environment – although their connection to sweet’s syndrome is not necessarily well-understood.

Some scientists speculate that Sweet’s syndrome is, essentially, an allergic reaction which happens as a reaction to an unidentified trigger. This may occur when an exceptionally sensitive or otherwise compromised immune system encounters a particular agent – for example, a virus or bacterial infection, or even a medical drug.

In some cases, Sweet’s syndrome is associated with cancer, usually leukemia, but not much more about it is known than that; additionally, this is only in some cases and not all. Links have also been made between Sweet’s syndrome and tumors. Furthermore, there are a myriad of risk factors which increase someone’s susceptibility to developing this rare condition.

Non-antibody proteins called cytokines may also contribute to the development of Sweet’s syndrome when such proteins become dysfunctional. These proteins are a special kind of protein which are produced by and released from the immune system which, essentially, benefits the functioning of the immune system. Due to the protein’s crucial role, the dysfunction of cytokine proteins can produce or provoke hyperactivity in the immune system. This hyperactivity can lead to a kind of violent allergic reaction.

How is Sweet’s Syndrome Treated?

Physicians often treat Sweet’s syndrome with corticosteroid medications, which can be prescribed in pill form, as a cream or an injection. Other medications that can help treat the symptoms include potassium iodide, cyclosporine and dapsone. After taking the prescribed medications, the symptoms will normally be gone within a couple of days.

To prevent future outbreaks, individuals should shield their skin when they are going to be outside in the sun. This includes using a sunscreen, wearing clothing that covers their skin and staying indoors during the hottest time of the day.

Sweet’s Syndrome Prevention

Because Sweet’s syndrome is so little understood, and because it likely results from a variety of complicated factors, it is not possible to prevent. However, because of the close ties of the disease to immune system function, a healthy immune system can largely aid in the avoidance of the condition. Furthermore, certain kinds of treatment are possible and available for the condition. Systemic steroids can help quickly reduce the symptoms of the disease. Low doses of corticosteroids take a longer time to show positive results, but may be a better option for certain individuals. In regards to patients whose case of Sweet’s syndrome is because of cancer, treating the cancer will often times resolve the skin condition.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
November 30, 2017