Pronounced: AIR-uh-THEE-ma no-DOSE-um
Erythema nodosum is the name given to extremely tender lumps on the legs and sometimes the arms. They are caused by inflammation of the fat beneath the skin. The bumps look like bruises. They change color in the same way, from pink to blue to brown. They are often accompanied by fever, joint pain, and redness around the eyes. They may continue to erupt for a week to 10 days. They will eventually resolve. It often resolves within 1-2 months.
Erythema nodosum is thought to be a type of allergic reaction. It may be caused by:
This condition is rare. Having any of the causes listed above will only slightly increase your risk of the disorder. It is more common in:
If you have some of these, do not assume it is erythema nodosum. Have your doctor examine any sores.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a doctor that focuses in skin problems (dermatology) or infectious diseases.
Tests may include the following:
If a cause can be identified, it will be treated. For the nodules themselves, pain relief is all that is needed. They tend to resolve on their own in about six weeks. They will not cause scarring. Treatment options include the following:
This may be necessary in severe cases.
Some of the causes can be avoided. The condition is rare enough that nothing but the most obvious measures are worthwhile.
American Academy of Dermatology
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
University of Maryland Medical Center
Canadian Dermatology Association
Beers MH, Berkow R. The Merck Manual . 17th ed. Merck & Co. West Point PA; 1999.
DermAtlas. Johns Hopkins University. Available at: http://dermatlas.med.jhmi.edu/derm/result.cfm?Diagnosis=31 . Accessed September 15, 2005.
Erythema nodosum. The Australasian College of Dermatologists Available at: http://www.betterh... . Accessed September 15, 2005.
Requena L, Yus ES. Erythema nodosum. Dermatol Clin . 2008;26(4):425-38, v. Review.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Peter Lucas, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2012
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