Sweet's Syndrome | Definition & Patient Education

Sweet's Syndrome

What is Sweet’s syndrome?


  1. An outbreak of small red bumps on the arms, neck, back, or face can signal that you have the rare disease called Sweet’s syndrome.
  2. An infection, an illness, and certain medications can trigger this condition.
  3. Medication helps clear up an episode of Sweet’s syndrome, but the condition is likely to recur.

Sweet’s syndrome is also called acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis. Its primary symptoms are skin lesions — usually small red bumps — and a fever. The lesions appear most commonly on your neck, arms, back, or face.

The condition is easy to treat. Patients with Sweet’s syndrome are often given corticosteroid pills, such as prednisone. With treatment, symptoms typically go away after a few days, though recurrence is common.

What are the symptoms of Sweet’s syndrome?

An outbreak of small red bumps on the arms, neck, back, or face can signal that a person has Sweet’s syndrome. The bumps can grow in size quickly, and they show up in clusters that can get to be about an inch in diameter.

If you experience a sudden rash that spreads, contact a medical professional.

What causes Sweet’s syndrome?

It’s not always clear what causes Sweet’s syndrome. An infection, an illness, or certain medications can trigger this condition. It can also appear in some cancer patients, specifically those with:

  • leukemia
  • a breast cancer tumor
  • colon cancer

Who is at risk for Sweet’s syndrome?

Sweet’s syndrome is not common. A few factors increase risk:

  • being a woman
  • being between the ages of 30 and 50
  • having leukemia
  • being pregnant
  • having recently recovered from an upper respiratory infection

How is Sweet’s syndrome diagnosed?

In most cases, a dermatologist can diagnose Sweet’s syndrome simply by looking at the lesions on the skin. Even so, patients are likely to be put through a few tests, such as a blood test or biopsy, to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

How is Sweet’s syndrome treated?

In some cases, the condition resolves itself. Corticosteroid pills, such as prednisone, are the most popular medical treatment for Sweet’s syndrome. With treatment, symptoms usually disappear in a few days. However, the condition may reoccur after treatment.

Corticosteroids are also available as topical creams and injections. Your doctor will determine which form of medication is right for you.

Home care

People with Sweet’s syndrome should be gentle with their skin. They should apply sunscreen as needed and wear protective clothing before going out in the sun. Follow any skin care regimen or medication schedule prescribed by a doctor.

Alternative therapies

Because long-term corticosteroid use can trigger side effects, the treating doctor may suggest other types of oral medications, such as dapsone (Aczone), potassium iodide, colchicine (Colcrys), Indocin, and cyclosporine (Sandimmune).

What is the outlook for Sweet’s syndrome?

With medication, Sweet’s syndrome is likely to clear up faster than if it is left untreated.

Preventing Sweet’s syndrome

Protecting your skin from prolonged sun exposure is a good way to avoid recurrences of Sweet’s syndrome. According to the Mayo Clinic, good sun protection methods include the following:

  • Sunscreen: Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Protective clothing: Wear protective clothing, including such items as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses.
  • Schedule: Avoid scheduling outdoor activities for midday and early afternoon, when the sun is the strongest.
  • Shady spots: Try to spend time in shady areas when you are outside.

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