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Dealing with erythema nodosum

Erythema nodosum is an inflammation of the skin that develops on fatty layers of the skin. It causes painful, reddish and tender swelling especially in front of the legs. This swelling varies in size from 1-5 centimeters. The swellings are due to the inflammation of the fatty layers of the skin. This condition is more susceptible to women than with men and usually between 20-45 years old.

Erythema nodosum is an immunological reaction. The formation of lumps is collections of immune cells spread in pockets in the subcutaneous layer. Subcutaneous layer is also called hypodermis which is the innermost layer of the skin and composed of fat and connective tissues and keeps large blood vessels and nerves. It regulates temperature of the body and function as an insulator.

Symptoms of erythema nodosum

  • The size of the lumps can be 1 cm- 20 cm wide
    erythema nodosum

    It causes painful, reddish and tender swelling especially in front of the legs.

  • Affects the shin skin, calves, ankles, buttocks, arms and thighs
  • Swelling legs
  • Fever and general malaise
  • Joint pain in the knees
  • 50 or more lumps can develop in the affected area
  • A raised red, hot and painful lumps develops in the skin
  • Conjunctivitis can develop
  • The lumps are colored bright cherry red and turns to purple for a few days.
  • The purple lumps turns to brownish-yellow and becomes flat in a few weeks
  • The lumps usually recur with insufficient rest


  • Tuberculosis
  • Bacterial throat infections
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Hormonal changes such as during pregnancy and using birth control pills
  • Certain medications such as bromides, penicillin and sulphonamides
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Infections such as psittacosis, hepatitis B, infectious mononucleosis and syphilis


  • Take plenty of bed rest to lessen the pressure and the swelling and for fast healing of the condition.
  • Elevate the affected leg above the level of the heart to lessen the pain. Raise the leg in couple of pillows to keep it elevated. It increases flow of blood to the heart and improve supply of blood to the skin.
  • Compress the affected area using compression stockings which are elastic garments around the affected leg and compresses the limb for proper flow of blood in the area and lessens the pain in the legs.
  • Apply alternately hot and cold compress to lessen the pain and the inflammation. Place a wet damp cloth between the skin and the hot pack before placing to the area for at least 10-15 minutes to prevent burns. Follow it up with a cold compress and wrapped in towel before applying to prevent further irritation and delay the healing.
  • Apply the prescribed potassium iodide to lessen the nodules.
  • Prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to lessen the pain and the inflammation.
  • Prescribed corticosteroids to relieve of the inflammation and the pain.

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