As the name rightly suggests, red man syndrome is a medical condition that is characterized by reddening and scaling of the skin. Here is a brief overview about this condition.
Those with red man syndrome have thin, flaky, and reddened skin. This condition is medically termed erythroderma, which is also known as exfoliative dermatitis and red man’s syndrome.
So it is a condition in which the affected person develops reddening of the skin, that may slough off, if not treated in time. Usually, the condition affects almost 90% of the entire skin surface. It may occur all of a sudden, or may develop gradually, according to the underlying cause. This condition can be caused by different reasons. In some cases, it may develop without any specific cause.
One of the major causes for red man syndrome is aggravation of underlying skin diseases, like psoriasis, lichen planus, seborrheic dermatitis, pityriasis rubra pilaris, or contact dermatitis. Drug reactions are also found to cause this syndrome. Vancomycin is a drug that is infamous for causing adverse reactions, like erythroderma. Even lymphoma and leukemia can cause this condition.
Red man syndrome may develop in people with other underlying medical conditions, like HIV infection; cancer of the lungs, rectum, fallopian tubes, and colon; and Graft vs Host disease. Studies show that almost 30% of the cases are idiopathic (without any cause). While the condition is medically termed as erythroderma or exfoliative dermatitis, it is said that some health experts use the name red man syndrome, for idiopathic erythroderma only.
Apart from reddening of the skin, red man’s syndrome causes other symptoms too. They include thickening and peeling of skin, which starts within six days from the onset of symptoms. The skin may peel off in small flakes or as large sheets. If left untreated, the skin may produce a serous ooze that can be sticky and smelly. Moderate to severe itching is a common symptom. Skin thickening is found to be more prominent in the palms and soles. Even the scalp develops scaling and resultant hair loss.
In some cases, nails develop ridges and may also shed. Swollen lymph nodes, fever and chills, increased heart rate, and dehydration due to loss of fluids through the skin, may also be experienced by the affected people. Some of them may develop swelling of the eyelid, which may lead to ectropion, a condition, wherein the inner surfaces of the eyelids are exposed. The oozing pustules may develop secondary infections. In the long term, the skin may get pigmented and form white or brown patches.
Red man syndrome treatment is usually based on the underlying cause. So, proper diagnosis is very important in treating this condition. In case of severe symptoms, hospitalization is required for managing the condition of the patient. In general, treatment for this condition involves maintenance of skin moisture, using wet dressings, emollients, and wet wraps. The body temperature and electrolyte balance, have to be monitored regularly. While unnecessary medications are stopped, the patient may be administered with mild topical steroids, antibiotics (for secondary infection), and antihistamines (for itching). In case the underlying cause is detected, treatment will be mainly aimed at treating that condition, apart from managing the symptoms.
If you experience the symptoms mentioned above, it will be better to seek medical attention at the earliest, so as to avoid complications. Even though, red man syndrome is as not a life-threatening condition, in combination with the underlying causes, it may turn fatal.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.