Erythroderma is also known as Generalized Exfoliative Dermatitis. The word 'erythroderma' is derived from the Greek words erythros (meaning red) and derma (skin). In the early stages of the condition, you may hear your doctor mention the word 'erythema' as a description (which is just the medical term for redness) before a firm diagnosis can be established. It is also common that erythroderma develops from a different initial skin condition.
The basic symptoms of erythroderma are peeling red skin covering 90% or more of the skin surface. One problem with this definition is that once the redness has reached 90% it is already a very serious condition. It is therefore important to consult an experienced dermatologist as early as possible. Skin diseases have a habit of transforming themselves from one condition into another. Nobody yet really understands how or why they do this, but it is important that you, as a patient, monitor your initial skin rash for any changes.
Not only are skin conditions often difficult to diagnose in their early stages, but their underlying cause may only become clear as the disease progresses. This is especially true with erythroderma, where data indicates that some 30% of cases remain idiopathic, or without known cause, even if the treatment has worked and the condition gone into remission. This means that your dermatologist will have a list of possible skin conditions and possible causes in his mind and will advise you on the most likely diagnosis at the time of the consultation. One of those possibilities may be erythroderma but it will only rise to the top of the list if and when the symptoms warrant it.
Having said all the above, let me reiterate that the first aim of this whole Red Man Syndrome blog is to guide you as much as possible towards a valid differential diagnosis; the symptoms you do not have are often as important as those that you do. The second aim of this blog is to give the best possible advice on how to treat and manage the condition for those with a confirmed erythroderma.
Erythroderma is a fairly rare condition but it is also a very dangerous condition to be left untreated. It is unlikely that your general doctor will have experience of the subtle differences between skin conditions, so it is important to see a dermatologist as soon as possible.