Eczema herpeticum is a serious skin infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. This HealthHearty article will give you a brief information about this potentially fatal infection.
Eczema herpeticum is a rare skin infection that arises due to the herpes simplex virus, the same virus that causes cold sores. It can affect people of all ages and is not gender specific. However, people who have eczema are more vulnerable to this infection. It was first described by Kaposi in 1887 and therefore, is also known as Kaposi’s varicelliform eruption (KVE). Other names include, Kaposi-Juliusberg’s disease and pustulosis acuta varioliformis juliusberg.
The causes involve the presence of a pre-existing condition such as atopic dermatitis. When the epidermis of the skin is damaged due to seborrheic dermatitis, pemphigus, atopic dermatitis, etc., or a skin injury caused by burnt skin, skin grafting, or sunburn, it causes the virus to infect the skin. Herpes simplex virus 1 or 2 are the most common viruses that cause this condition. Other causes include Coxsackievirus or vaccinia viruses.
Most of the time, the patient is unaware of the infection. The symptoms are seen in people with a very weak immune system. The organs that are generally affected are the eyes, lungs, brain, and liver. The entire body is filled with severe, painful inflammation. The initial symptoms develop within 5 to 12 days of exposure to the virus. Formation of small blisters appearing in the form of clusters is observed. They are filled with water and may end up bleeding and infecting the surrounding area. The blisters are extremely painful and cause fever. The lymph nodes tend to swell as the infection spreads.
The damaged skin develops secondary bacterial infection. Chills and malaise are also significant symptoms. Within 7 to 10 days of developing the condition, there are new patches formed around the body. These patches are infected with streptococcus or staphylococcus. As the infection spreads, the lesions are filled with pus and become crusty. They begin to bleed, if not treated as early as possible.
If one does not seek immediate treatment, it may lead to many severe complications. As this infection can spread to the eyes, it will lead to scarring, causing blindness. If the condition leads to a systemic infection, it can lead to damage of the internal organs. This damage may turn into a life-threatening condition. The infection makes the skin vulnerable to Staphylococcus aureus infection. This makes the condition of the patient extremely serious and the treatment becomes extremely difficult.
Early diagnosis is a bit tricky as the initial symptoms look like a bad case of eczema. However, with certain diagnostic tests, the doctor may be able to diagnose the condition. This skin condition requires one to be admitted to the hospital. The doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs such as acyclovir and valacyclovir for treatment. In case of immunocompromised patients, foscarnet may be advised. In case of secondary bacterial infections, antibiotics may also be suggested.
Is it Contagious?
Eczema herpeticum is contagious as the causal virus―herpes simplex―is contagious in nature. Patients are kept in isolation wards, and are given antiviral drugs to control the infection.
If one is diagnosed with the condition, it is imperative to not scratch the affected area, as it will lead to secondary bacterial infections. The house should be vacuumed regularly to avoid dust and mites. Bathe with lukewarm water and do not stay in water for a long time. Avoid the use of chemicals, detergents, soaps, and perfumes on the skin. Take all medications and precautions as advised by the doctor. In the absence of proper attention, the situation may prove to be fatal.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is meant for informational purposes only, and should not be considered as a replacement for expert medical advice.