Erythema nodosum is a very rare skin disease that causes tender, red-colored nodules, usually on the lower legs.
The condition is more common in women between the ages of 20 and 30, but can occur in anyone, regardless of age or gender. The nodules can range in size from about 1 centimeter all the way up to 5 centimeters. Although they are not very big, they can be very painful in some cases.
What causes EN to develop?
There are many causes of Erythema nodosum, although it can just develop on its own (idiopathic). Several medications can potentially cause the nodules, including birth control pills and estrogen drugs. Various infections such as bacterial, fungal and viral can all lead to the onset of EN.
There are also a number of health conditions and diseases that can cause EN outbreaks, such as IBD (Crohn’s, colitis), sarcoidosis, CSD, tuberculosis and Hep B.
If your doctor suspects erythema nodosum, the first step is to have a lesion biopsied. A skin biopsy is the only way to prove the diagnosis. If the biopsy shows that you have EN, your doctor will then try to determine the cause of your condition. This may involve lab work and various skin tests, since there are so many potential causes of this inflammatory skin condition.
Keep in mind that Erythema nodosum is not dangerous or contagious. The disease usually goes away by itself after the underlying cause is found.
What are the treatment options for erythema nodosum?
There is an aspirin-like drug called Indocin that often improves the condition. This medication is typically taken three times a day with food or Maalox. Other NSAIDs may be helpful as well and other pain drugs may be recommended by your doctor.
Gentle heat, provided by a warm, soapy wash cloth held over the area for 30 minutes three to four times a day, often speeds up the healing process.
EN usually resolves itself within a matter of weeks, up to about one and a half to two months at most. Keep in mind that it is not life-threatening and does not pose any serious health risks. It may return however, especially if the underlying cause is not addressed properly.