Erythema : Causes, symptoms and treatments

Erythema is a skin inflammation on the fatty layer of the skin. On spreading of the legs, they give the skin a red appearance along with pain and tender lumps. The lumps could vary in size from one to five centimeters. They usually affect the front part of the legs. Erythema is a self-limited skin condition and even if no treatment is taken, it can clear off by itself within a period of 3 to 6 weeks. After healing, it may leave behind a bruised appearance over the area where the fatty layers had been destroyed. This, however, fades with time.


Erythema is an independent skin condition. However, it has also been known to occur together with a number of other conditions like

  • Strep throat
  • Fungal diseases
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Use of sulfa related drugs, birth control pills, and estrogens
  • Cat scratch diseases
  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Behcet’s disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis


The most common features of erythema include raised, tender reddish nodules that usually appear below the knees in the front part of the legs. These are painful and very slow in coming out as well as clearing off. The condition can be caused due to a number of factors. The affected area usually gets inflamed on and off for a period of time. Following the treatment, the bumps shrink down and become flat while also leaving a bruised appearance. If not treated, the lesions could develop elsewhere. Although they do disappear by themselves, this could take a long time, anywhere from several weeks to several months. If the condition lasts for years altogether, it is known as chronic erythema and it comes out in patterns. This skin condition can occur without any underlying disease in the body.


If treated with care, it takes no more than one full week for the symptoms to clear off completely. This also does not leave behind any scarring. However, despite the treatment, there will always be a risk of the condition to come back again. Antiviral medicines can help prevent the attacks to some extent, making them less frequent. Other possible complications include

  • Blood poisoning, which is also known as septicemia
  • Septic shock where the skin condition causes the blood pressure to drop drastically low
  • It could lead to another skin condition known as cellulitis
  • Permanent damage to the skin along with scarring
  • Eye damage
  • Inflammation of the internal organs such as the liver and lungs.


While treating erythema, it is important to identify if there is any underlying skin condition along with the lesions that can appear on the surface. The most common medications used during the treatment include anti inflammatory drugs and cortisone in the form of oral medicines or topical ointments. Since the symptoms can vary quite a lot from person to person, the treatment should be closely customized depending on the stage and severity of each patient. While erythema is very annoying and painful, it does not cause any serious health issues or damage the internal organs.

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