What are the symptoms and signs?
Painful nodules on shins and sometimes on thighs and arms.
What are the causes?
The painful nodules are due to inflammation of the fatty tissue under the skin.
Erythema nodosum is often caused by a variety of common infections (viral, bacterial and fungal). The underlying cause may sometimes be more serious, for example TB or other lung disorders.
It can also be caused by various medicines, such as antibiotics and sometimes by the contraceptive pill. Rarely it can be associated with other types of inflammatory illness such as some types of bowel disease and other diseases.
After history and physical examination some tests may be required. Blood tests, taking a throat swab to search for an infection and a chest X-ray may be helpful.
Treatment depends on the cause. Bacterial infection may require treatment with antibiotics. Quite often supportive treatment (such as bed rest and pain relief) is all that is needed. In a lot of cases the condition resolves spontaneously within 6 weeks. If the resolution is slow or there is a more serious underlying cause, referral to a specialist may be necessary.
This article published on
12 December 2005
Next review date 01/12/2013
Skin and hair