16 Apr 2012


This section presents all the characteristics of classic erythroderma. It will look at the range of physical symptoms as well as physiological changes that may appear symptomless but which manifest in diagnostic tests. It is especially important to understand these ‘hidden symptoms’ and know how to manage them before they ever start to manifest as physical symptoms.

Let me add here that symptoms, causes and personal history are inextricably linked. Your number one diagnostic tool is a notebook and pen! It is important you keep a diary of how your skin condition started, when it manifested and how it is developing. Memory is notoriously fallible, so best to write everything down. Think hard about what may have triggered the skin eruption. Had you taken any drugs? Some drugs have long half-lives so go back a couple of months or more. Any contact with potentially toxic chemicals? Our seas, for example, have unfortunately turned into open dumping grounds and may contain a cocktail of toxins and microorganisms. Do you have any family members who suffer from a skin condition, even if a mild one? It is good to inform your dermatologist of any genetic link to a potentially underlying condition.

Once armed with your notebook, you can proceed to attempt a self-diagnosis with the knowledge that a list of symptoms is not enough; a true differential diagnosis involves both positive data as well as negative data. If you want to see how it’s done, then watch House MD, and see how often Dr Gregory House gets it wrong before he hits on the correct diagnosis.

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