erythema nodosum

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Related to erythema nodosum: erythema multiforme, sarcoidosis

Erythema Nodosum



Erythema nodosum is a skin disorder characterized by painful red nodules appearing mostly on the shins.


Erythema nodosum is an eruption of tender red lumps on both shins and occasionally the arms and face. Bruising often accompanies the nodule formation. Erythema nodosum is most prevalent in young adults.

Causes and symptoms

Erythema nodosum can be caused by many important and treatable diseases. Among them are tuberculosis, several fungal lung infections, leprosy, inflammatory bowel disease, and some potentially dangerous bacterial infections. Drugs can also induce erythema nodosum. The most common are penicillin, sulfonamides, and birth control pills.


There are a few other skin eruptions that mimic erythema nodosum, so the physician may have to perform a biopsy to sort them out. There are a few types of panniculitis, fat inflammation, that may signal a cancer somewhere in the body, and there are other kinds of inflammation that may confuse the diagnosis.
Once the skin problem has been diagnosed, its underlying cause must then be identified. A lengthy evaluation may ensue, and often times the cause remains unknown.


Painful nodules can be treated with mild pain killers and local application of ice packs. Medical attention will be directed toward the underlying disease.
The nodules will eventually disappear, leaving no trace behind.



Bennett, J. Claude, and Fred Plum, editors. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Co., 1996.

Key terms

Biopsy — Surgical removal of tissue for diagnostic purposes.
Panniculitis — Inflammation of fatty tissue.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


redness of the skin caused by congestion of the capillaries in the lower layers of the skin. It occurs with any skin injury, infection, or inflammation.
erythema chro´nicum mi´grans a ring-shaped erythema due to the bite of a tick of the genus Ixodes; it begins as an erythematous plaque several weeks after the bite and spreads peripherally with central clearing. Often there are also systemic symptoms, including chills, fever, headache, vomiting, backache, and stiff neck. See also lyme disease.
gyrate erythema (erythema gyra´tum) erythema multiforme characterized by the development of lesions that tend to migrate and spread peripherally with central clearing.
erythema ab ig´ne permanent erythema produced by prolonged exposure to excessive nonburning heat. It is seen most often on the legs of women, but under appropriate environmental circumstances, it can occur anywhere on the body in either sex.
erythema indura´tum a chronic necrotizing vasculitis, usually occurring on the calves of young women; see also bazin's disease.
erythema infectio´sum a mild, self-limiting disease of childhood characterized by a lacelike skin rash symmetrically distributed on the hands, arms, and legs, with few or no other symptoms; occasionally there is a low grade fever, and the condition often clears up without specific treatment. The incubation period is six days to two weeks. This disease is contagious and originally was believed to be a form of rubella; because the rash can resemble that of scarlet fever and German measles, it is important to differentiate this mild condition from those more serious ones. Called also fifth disease.
erythema margina´tum a type of erythema multiforme in which the reddened areas are disk-shaped, with elevated edges.
erythema margina´tum rheuma´ticum a superficial, often asymptomatic, form of gyrate erythema associated with some cases of rheumatic fever, which is characterized by the presence on the trunk and extensor surfaces of the extremities of a transient eruption of flat to slightly indurated, nonscaling, and usually multiple lesions.
erythema mi´grans geographic tongue.
erythema multifor´me a symptom complex representing a reaction of the skin and mucous membranes secondary to various known, suspected, and unknown factors, including infections, ingestants, physical agents, malignancy, and pregnancy. The conditions in the complex are characterized by the sudden onset of a reddened macular, bullous, papular, or vesicular eruption, the characteristic lesion being the iris, bull's eye, or target lesion, which consists of a central papule with two or more concentric rings. The complex includes a mild self-limited mucocutaneous form (erythema multiforme minor) and a severe, sometimes fatal, multisystem form (stevens-johnson syndrome).
erythema nodo´sum a type of panniculitis occurring usually as a hypersensitivity reaction to multiple provoking agents, including various infections, drugs, sarcoidosis, and certain enteropathies. It may also be of idiopathic origin. It most often affects young women and is characterized by the development of crops of transient, inflammatory, nonulcerating nodules that are usually tender, multiple, and bilateral, and most commonly located on the shins; the lesions involute slowly, leaving bruiselike patches without scarring. The acute disease is often associated with fever, malaise, and arthralgias. A chronic variant sometimes occurs without any serious associated systemic disease.
toxic erythema (erythema tox´icum) a generalized erythematous or erythematomacular eruption due to administration of a drug or to bacterial or other toxins or associated with various systemic diseases.
erythema tox´icum neonato´rum a benign, idiopathic, very common, generalized, transient eruption occurring in infants during the first week of life, usually consisting of small papules or pustules that become sterile, yellow-white, firm vesicles surrounded by an erythematous halo and some edema.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

er·y·the·ma no·do·sum

a panniculitis marked by the sudden formation of painful nodes on the extensor surfaces of the lower extremities, with lesions that are self-limiting but tend to recur; associated with arthralgia and fever; may be the result of drug sensitivity or associated with sarcoidosis and various infections. Deep biopsies show a septal panniculitis with infiltration by lymphocytes and scattered multinucleated giant cells.
Synonym(s): nodal fever
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012

erythema nodosum

A nodular, erythematous eruption of acute onset, which is usually confined to the anterior and lateral lower legs (but also affects the arms, face and trunk), and is regarded as a delayed hypersensitivity reaction. While it usually resolves spontaneously, it may be chronic.

Clinical findings
Warm and tender nodules, bruise-like colours, bilateral, symmetrical, fever, and joint pain.

More common in young (age 18–35) women (female:male ratio, 4:1); incidence is 25 cases/100,000/year.

Infections (especially streptococcus, but also cat-scratch disease), coccidiodomycosis, psittacosis, yersiniosis, sarcoid, inflammatory bowel disease, drugs (e.g., sulphonamides, halides, gold, sulfonylurea, oral contraceptives), lymphoma, oestrogen, neutrophilic dermatosis (Sweet syndrome, Behçet disease).
NSAIDs, wet compresses, elevation, bed rest.

Erythema nodosum vs. nodular vasculitis:
Ulceration: No vs. Yes
Site: Shins vs. Calves
Onset: Acute vs. Chronic
Scars: No vs. Yes
Tissue: Septal vs. Lobular
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.

er·y·the·ma no·do·sum

(er'i-thē'mă nō-dō'sŭm)
A panniculitis marked by the sudden formation of painful nodes on the extensor surfaces of the lower extremities, with lesions that are self limiting but tend to recur; associated with arthralgia and fever; may be the result of drug sensitivity or associated with sarcoidosis and various infections. Deep biopsies show a septal panniculitis (i.e., inflammation of fatty connective tissue), with infiltration by lymphocytes and scattered multinucleated giant cells.
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012

erythema nodosum

Inflammation of small blood vessels (vasculitis) causing red, raised, tender nodules under the skin of both shins and sometimes elsewhere on the body. These disappear after some days or weeks. There may be fever, aches and pains and sickness. Erythema nodosum is an immunological disorder associated with a variety of conditions including TUBERCULOSIS, SARCOIDOSIS, streptococcal infections, drug allergies and LEPROSY.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Conditions that are associated with erythema nodosum include medications (sulfa-related drugs, birth control pills, estrogens), sore throat (caused by streptococcus bacteria), cat-scratch fever, fungal diseases, glandular, sarcoidosis, Behcet's disease, inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) and normal pregnancy.
Ocular disease, papulopustular lesions, venous thrombosis, heart disease, and positive pathergy are more common in male patients, whereas genital ulcers, erythema nodosum, and joint involvement are associated with females (8).
We present the case of a 33 year old male presenting with longstanding fever, which was later diagnosed as Erythema Nodosum Leprosum as an initial presentation of leprosy.
Is erythema nodosum coexisting with lesions of the breast a suggestive sign for idiopathic granulomatous mastitis?
Skin examination revealed multiple bilateral tender subcutaneous nodules on her anterior shins, consistent with erythema nodosum (EN) (Figure 1).
Our case is unique in its rare presentation of erythema nodosum leprosum as vesiculopustular lesions proceeding to gross necrotizing ulcerative lesions.
Oral and genital ulcers, erythema nodosum, thrombophlebitis and pustular lesion parameters did not differ among the groups.
Other, less common, skin manifestations of infectious mononucleosis include, among others, erythema nodosum, erythema multiforme, and urticaria.
After the first week of this treatment, he complained of tender, erythematous nodules on the anterior surface of his lower legs, which we diagnosed as erythema nodosum (figure 2).
His course was without complication by either reversal reaction or erythema nodosum leprosum.