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Approach to the patient with pustular skin lesions

Beth G Goldstein, MD
Adam O Goldstein, MD, MPH
Section Editors
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Moise L Levy, MD
Deputy Editor
Rosamaria Corona, MD, DSc


Pustules are circumscribed collections of white blood cells and serous fluid. Many skin lesions will present with papules or vesicles (clear fluid); those presenting with pustules occur less frequently. It is important to recognize the morphologic pattern of pustules because it may imply a different spectrum of differential diagnosis as well as treatment.

While the differential diagnosis of pustules is broad (table 1), most diagnoses will fit one of the diseases below. Several defining features can aid in narrowing down the possibilities in an efficient manner:

The patient's age and general health

The distribution of lesions

The duration of the lesions

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 29, 2016.
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