Target lesions on the lips: childhood herpes simplex associated with erythema multiforme mimics Stevens-Johnson syndrome

J Am Acad Dermatol. 1997 Nov;37(5 Pt 2):848-50. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(97)80009-6.


Erythema multiforme and Stevens-Johnson syndrome are both characterized by areas of epithelial necrosis. An important clinical feature that distinguishes the two is the extensive mucosal necrosis in Stevens-Johnson syndrome but not in erythema multiforme. Because significant and serious complications may develop with Stevens-Johnson syndrome and not with erythema multiforme, it is important to differentiate between the conditions. We describe three boys with herpes simplex virus-associated erythema multiforme who had severe necrosis of the lips develop and were initially diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome. The lip lesions were large target lesions of erythema multiforme rather than the extensive necrosis seen in Stevens-Johnson syndrome and all three had a benign course.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Erythema Multiforme / diagnosis*
  • Erythema Multiforme / etiology
  • Herpes Labialis / complications*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome / diagnosis*