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Erythema Nodosum

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Erythema Nodosum


Erythema nodosum is a rare condition where tender lumps form on the skin. It is due to inflammation of fat or connective tissue beneath the skin.

Erythema Nodosum.

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Erythema nodosum may be caused by:

  • Infections due to:
    • Viruses
    • Bacteria, especially strep throat
    • Fungi
  • Inflammatory conditions such as:
  • Pregnancy
  • Medicines such as:
    • Birth control pills
    • Sulfa drugs and some other antibiotics
    • Iodides
    • Bromides
    • Leukotriene modifiers
    • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Certain types of cancer, such as:
    • Lymphoma
    • Leukemia

Sometimes the cause is not known.

Risk Factors

This condition is more common in females and young adults aged 20 to 30 years old.

The risk of this problem is low. It is only slightly higher in those who have the causes listed above.


Symptoms start suddenly. A person may have:

  • Very tender, deep lumps, like bruises, that:
    • Change color from pink to blue to brown
    • Are often found on the shins
    • May also appear on the arms, trunk, neck, and head
  • Flu-like symptoms and joint pain—these can also appear one to three weeks before the lumps


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This may be enough to diagnose the problem.

Tests may be done to look for a cause. They may be:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Cultures or a throat swab for strep
  • PPD skin test for tuberculosis
  • Biopsy of one of the skin lumps
  • Chest x-rays


The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms and treat any underlying causes. The lumps tend to go away on their own. This may take up to six weeks.

Pain can be eased with:

  • Bed rest and elevation of legs
  • Wet compresses
  • Aspirin—Note: children should not have aspirin or aspirin products, as it may cause serious problems
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Potassium iodide

If symptoms are severe, other medicines may be given, such as steroids.


There are no known guidelines for preventing this condition.





  • Erythema nodosum. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/erythema-nodosum.
  • Erythema nodosum. DermNet New Zealand website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/erythema-nodosum.
  • Erythema nodosum. Better Health Channel website. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/erythema-nodosum.
  • Leung, A.K.C., Leong, K.F., et al. Erythema nodosum. World Journal of Pediatrics, 2018; 14 (6): 548-554.


  • Mary-Beth Seymour, RN
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.