Toasted skin syndrome, more properly known as erythema ab igne, is a medical condition in which skin becomes discolored, or hyperpigmented, due to prolonged exposure to heat. The condition has aesthetic consequences, as the skin discoloration may deepen to darker red, blue, and brown colors, taking on a mottled appearance. In some cases, the skin discoloration may fade after the skin has had time to heal, though in some cases the skin may not return to its previous state. The condition also carries with it an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
Prior to central heating becoming common in homes, toasted skin syndrome would occasionally occur as family members would stand or sit very close to a fireplace or stove in order to keep warm. As technology improved and central heating became more common, incidences of the condition decreased, though individuals who work in professions and trades that bring them into close contact with high heat, such as glass blowers or bakers, may experience the condition, often on the face. Other common causes included the use of hot water bottles or heating pads for long periods of time. Owing to this connection, the condition is sometimes known as hot water bottle rash.
Skin that has been exposed to high heat and developed toasted skin syndrome may be at greater risk for cancer. For this reason, it is important for sufferers and doctors to pay attention to skin affected by erythema ab igne in order to spot any signs of possible cancer development. Symptoms may include the development of sores or bumps in the area affected by this syndrome. Close monitoring of the condition can sometimes increase survival rates if treatment is started early.
There has been an increase in the condition in the 21st century due to the common use of laptop computers. Individuals may rest a laptop on their legs for extended periods of time, resulting in toasted skin syndrome. In some cases, the sufferer or his physician may assume that he has a rash caused by other sources of irritation, such as allergies. Indeed, sufferers may experience itchiness or tenderness of the skin, which may contribute to this misdiagnosis. Media attention is making both laypeople and health care professionals more aware of toasted skin syndrome and its causes, however, enabling physicians to make a more accurate diagnosis and allowing sufferers to be aware of what they might be doing to cause the problem.