Table of Content


Autumn 2017, Vol. 25 No. 3

Hong Kong J. Dermatol. Venereol. (2017) 25, 128-132

Case Report

A case of Sweet's syndrome with marked facial swelling and fluid collection


JE Seol 薛禎恩, SH Park 朴蘇熙, DH Kim 金道亨, JN Kang 姜情暖, H Kim 金孝鎮


A 43-year-old woman presented with a one-day history of painful erythematous patches with swelling on face, accompanied by fever of 38.4°C. Laboratory tests showed leukocytosis with neutrophil predominance and increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein level. Histopathological examination revealed dense neutrophil infiltration in dermis. She was diagnosed with Sweet syndrome and treated with systemic corticosteroids, after which she showed clinical improvement. As the corticosteroids were being tapered, however, facial swelling developed with focal fluid collection. Incision and drainage were performed, and cyclosporine, colchicine, and dapsone were administered. After 16 weeks, she showed marked clinical improvement.


Keywords: Sweet syndrome

關鍵詞: 史維特症候群


Sweet's syndrome (SS) commonly manifests as painful erythematous papules and nodules on the face, neck, and upper extremities,1 accompanied by fever, malaise, and leukocytosis.2 The exact cause of SS is unknown.3,4 Systemic corticosteroids are the gold standard therapy for SS.5,6 We report an unusual case of SS with development of focal fluid collection.

Case report

A 43-year-old woman presented with a painful erythematous patch with marked swelling on the face. She also complained of a febrile sensation, malaise, and headache, which began abruptly the day before. She had had a history of upper respiratory infection one week earlier, but there was no history of trauma or medication use.

Physical examination revealed tender erythematous swollen patches on her face, especially on the forehead and both cheeks (Figure 1). Body temperature was 38.4°C. The laboratory evaluation showed neutrophilia (18,309/mm2), an increased C-reactive protein level (CRP; 28.89 mg/dL) and increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR; 116 mm/h). Diabetes mellitus was diagnosed incidentally at admission by a routine screening blood test. All other tests were within normal limits, including liver and renal function tests.

Figure 1 Erythematous swollen patches were shown on the face.

Histopathological examination of a forehead specimen showed mild papillary dermal oedema and dense inflammatory cell infiltration, consisting mainly of neutrophils and histiocytes (Figure 2).

Figure 2 (a) Histopathological examination revealed mild papillary dermal oedema and dense inflammatory cells infiltration (H&E, x100). (b) High-powered view of specimen showed inflammatory cells mainly consisted of neutrophils and histiocytes (H&E, x400). (c) Myeloperoxidase staining showed positive result (MPO, x100).

Based on the clinical, laboratory, and histopathological findings, we made a provisional diagnosis of SS, ruling out cellulitis. Methylprednisolone 16 mg/day, dexamethasone 10 mg/day, and cefazodone 2 g/day were administered together at first. Gram staining and tissue cultures performed to exclude infectious causes were negative. Therefore, infectious causes were excluded and cefazodone was stopped on the fifth day. Both the clinical features and laboratory parameters improved (neutrophils 6,347/mm2, CRP level 3.63 mg/dL). The patient was discharged seven days after admission on a decreased dose of systemic corticosteroid (methylprednisolone 4 mg/day) (Figure 3).

Figure 3 Skin lesions improved after one week of systemic corticosteroid treatment.

However, two weeks after discharge from our hospital, the skin lesions worsened, especially on the forehead (Figure 4a). The methylprednisolone dose was increased to 16 mg/day, and cyclosporine 200 mg/day was added, but there was no clinical improvement (Figures 4b & 4c). Ultrasonography showed diffuse fluid collections in her forehead. Yellowish mucoid fluid was drained from these lesions on four occasions. Gram staining and fluid cultures were negative, and cytological analysis revealed increased neutrophils (>30/mm2). Colchicine 1.2 mg/day and dapsone 50 mg/day were added. After 10 weeks of treatment, the skin lesions had improved markedly (Figure 4d). Maintenance treatment with colchicine 0.6 mg/day and dapsone 50 mg/day was given for three months, and there was marked improvement by the end of treatment (Figure 4e).

Figure 4 (a) Skin lesions aggravated, especially in forehead, two weeks after discharge. (b,c) Exacerbation of skin lesions with focal fluid collection on the forehead despite an increased dose of systemic corticosteroid and addition of cyclosporin. (d) Skin lesions significantly improved with administration of dapsone, colchicine and fluid drainage on four occasions. (e) After three months of maintenance treatment with dapsone and colchicine, skin lesions resolved completely.


Sweet's syndrome, also known as acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis, is characterised by painful skin lesions, pyrexia, neutrophilia, elevated acute phase reactants, and a rapid response to corticosteroids.2 The exact cause of SS is unclear, but infections, autoimmune diseases, malignant diseases and drugs are thought to be associated with SS.7 It has been suggested that circulating antibodies, cytokines, and immune complexes contribute to its pathogenesis.7 Underlying malignancy, especially haematological malignancy, should be ruled out in cases of SS with severe manifestations.7 Our patient had severe skin lesions, marked facial swelling, and focal fluid collection on the forehead, but there was no evidence of haematological malignancy on laboratory evaluation.

There are two major and four minor criteria for SS.8 The major criteria are: (1) sudden onset of painful erythematous plaques or nodules, (2) dermal oedema and neutrophilic infiltration of the dermis without signs of vasculitis histopathologically.8 The four minor criteria are (1) associated underlying disease (upper respiratory tract or gastrointestinal infection, autoimmune disorder, visceral or haematological malignancy or pregnancy, (2) fever (>38°C), (3) abnormal laboratory findings initially (ESR >20 mm/h, positive CRP, leukocytosis >8000, neutrophils >70%), and (4) an immediate response to systemic therapy with corticosteroids or potassium iodide.8 Both major criteria and at least two minor criteria should be met to diagnose SS.8 Our patient had skin lesions consisting of warm, erythematous, swollen patches and focal fluid collection resembling cellulitis, but the histopathological findings that were consistent with SS, and all of the minor criteria were met. In addition, tissue and fluid cultures revealed no evidence of infection.

First-line treatment of SS includes systemic corticosteroids, potassium iodide, and colchicine. Of these, corticosteroids are the main treatment and are often administered at a dose of 1 mg/kg/day prednisone and tapered to 10 mg/day within four to six weeks.9 Second-line systemic treatment includes indomethacin, clofazimine, cyclosporine, and dapsone. All of these agents can be used as monotherapy or combination therapy either as the first-line therapy or after failure of first-line therapy.9 Our patient responded rapidly to systemic corticosteroid therapy. However, the early tapering of the systemic corticosteroids due to the incidental diagnosis of diabetic mellitus might have contributed to the worsening of the skin lesions and severe inflammation might have resulted in the focal neutrophil-rich fluid collection.

Several cases of SS with atypical clinical features, such as cellulitis-like lesion, zoster-like lesion, rapidly expanded erythematous lesion with haemorrhage, and multiple tense pustules and abscess lesion, have been reported,10-12 but SS manifesting as swollen erythematous patches and subsequent focal fluid collection has not been reported. Here, we reported a case of SS with unusual clinical features.


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