Contact Us  |  Search: 
Printer Friendly VersionEmail A FriendAdd ThisIncrease Text SizeDecrease Text Size

Erythema nodosum

 

Definition

Erythema nodosum is an inflammatory disorder that is characterized by tender, red nodules under the skin.

Causes

In about half of cases, the exact cause of erythema nodosum is unknown. Some cases may be associated with the following:

Other associated disorders include leukemia, lymphoma, sarcoidosis, rheumatic fever, Bechet's disease, and ulcerative colitis.

The condition is more common in women than it is in men.

Symptoms

Erythema nodosum is most common on the shins, but it may also occur on other areas of the body (buttocks, calves, ankles, thighs, and arms).

The lesions begin as flat, firm, hot, red, painful lumps approximately an inch across. Within a few days they may become purplish, then over several weeks fade to a brownish, flat patch.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • General ill feeling (malaise)
  • Joint aches
  • Skin redness, inflammation, or irritation
  • Swelling of the leg or other affected area

The red and inflamed skin symptoms may regress to a bruise-like appearance.

Signs and tests

The diagnosis is primarily based on the appearance of the skin nodules.

Punch biopsy of a nodule may show characteristic changes (septal panniculitis).

Throat culture may be done to reule out a strep infection.

Chest x-ray may be done to rule out sarcoidosis or tuberculosis.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Erythema nodosum is uncomfortable, but it is usually not dangerous. Symptoms typically disappear within about 6 weeks, but may recur.

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of erythema nodosum.

Complications

Treatments

The underlying infection, drug, or disease should be identified and treated. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) may reduce symptoms. An oral potassium iodide (SSKI) solution may produce prompt resolution of the nodules.

Corticosteroids or salicylate medications may be needed to reduce acute inflammation. Analgesics and limitation of activity may be needed to control varying amounts of pain.

Topical therapy is not generally needed, although hot or cold compresses may reduce discomfort.

Prevention

References

Schwartz RA, Nervi SJ. Erythema nodosum: a sign of systemic disease. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(5):695-700.


Review Date: 10/12/2009
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
MAIMONIDES
MEDICAL CENTER


Home Page
Why Choose Us
Donations
Website Terms of Use
PATIENT
INFORMATION


Visitor & Patient Info
We Speak Your Language
Patient Privacy
Contact Us
KEY
INFORMATION


Find a Physician
Medical Services
Maimonides In the News
Directions & Parking
FOR HEALTH
PROFESSIONALS


Medical Education
Career Opportunities
Nurses & Physicians
Staff Intranet Access

Maimonides Medical Center    |    4802 Tenth Avenue    |    Brooklyn, NY 11219    |    718.283.6000