Erythema Nodosum

Shiny, tender, red or purple swellings (nodules), usually on the shins

  • Most common in young adults
  • More common in females
  • Genetics and lifestyle are not significant factors

Many conditions may give rise to erythema nodosum, in which tender red or purple swellings known as nodules develop, usually on the shins.

Erythema nodosum is most common in young adults, and particularly in women. It may be linked with long-standing disorders such as tuberculosis and the inflammatory disorder sarcoidosis. The condition may also be a reaction to drugs, in particular to some types of antibiotics. In children, it is often associated with a sore throat caused by a streptococcal infection. In some cases, there is no obvious cause for the condition.

What are the symptoms?

In many cases, erythema nodosum is accompanied by pains in the joints and muscles and fever. The nodules usually appear on the shins; less commonly, they develop on the forearms. They are:

  • Shiny and bright red or purple.

  • In general, between 1 cm ( 3 / 8 in) and 15 cm (6 in) in diameter.

  • Very painful and tender.

The nodules fade over a few weeks and may begin to look like bruises.

What might be done?

A diagnosis is made from the symptoms and the appearance of the nodules. There is no specific treatment, but your doctor may advise you to rest in bed and keep your legs raised until the nodules have begun to subside. To reduce swelling, the doctor may also prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and, occasionally, oral corticosteroids. In addition, he or she may arrange for blood tests and a chest X-ray to be performed to check for an underlying disorder.

Most affected people recover over 4 to 8 weeks. However, in 1 in 5 people, erythema nodosum recurs.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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