Purpura Fulminans

What is Purpura Fulminans?

Purpura fulminans is a rare and life-threatening disorder in which blood-filled blisters form on the skin and other organs of the body. It is usually caused by infections or reactions to medications. The blistering is accompanied by clotting problems and circulatory collapse.

This condition is marked by a characteristic purplish blotchy rash that can spread rapidly, causing severe skin necrosis, systemic inflammation, and thrombosis. Purpura fulminans is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention so as to prevent further complications.

Signs and Symptoms of Purpura Fulminans

The symptoms of purpura fulminans usually appear suddenly and progress rapidly. The following are the typical signs and symptoms of this condition.

  • Small, red, purplish spots on the skin that can rapidly spread to other parts of the body
  • Large blisters that may become filled with blood
  • High fever
  • Pain and tenderness in affected areas
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tachycardia and hypotension
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Severe pain and swelling in the affected areas
  • Organ failure and shock

Causes of Purpura Fulminans

Purpura fulminans is usually caused by an infection, a drug reaction or a combination of both. Bacterial and viral infections are among the most common causes, especially those caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Neisseria meningitidis. Other causes of purpura fulminans include reactions to drugs such as penicillin and cancer medications. Other less common causes include inflammatory diseases and genetic disorders.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Purpura Fulminans

A diagnosis of purpura fulminans is usually suspected based on the physical appearance of the lesions or the symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, laboratory tests such as a complete blood count and a culture of the blood are conducted to identify the underlying cause. Ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI may also be performed to assess the extent of the damage.

Treatment of purpura fulminans is aimed at addressing the underlying cause, if possible. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Treatment of drug reactions includes the use of supportive therapies such as fluid therapy and medications to reduce inflammation. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove damaged tissues or remove associated blood clots.