What is panniculitis?

Panniculitis involves inflammation of the fatty layer beneath the skin. It is generally seen among women, usually on the thigh and lower legs.

There are various forms of panniculitis but it generally causes the skin to harden and develop sore reddened lumps or patches which makes it appear darker. It typically affects the calves and shins but can spread to the forearms, thighs and chest. In most cases, it settles within 6 weeks which fade as a bruise without scarring.

Once the inflammation has settled, a skin depression might be left that can be temporary or permanent. Many individuals suffer from repeated episodes of panniculitis.

Aside from the skin symptoms, panniculitis might be linked with the following symptoms:

panniculitis

Oftentimes, simple lifestyle modifications, over-the-counter pain medications and supportive bandages are enough to control any flare-ups.

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss

What are the causes?

There are various possible causes of panniculitis, but oftentimes the cause is unknown.

The usual causes include:

  • Infection either bacterial or viral but might be tuberculosis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Inflammatory disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Leukemia or lymphoma
  • Certain medications including sulphonamides or oral contraceptive pills

In some instances, the condition is caused by the immune system where it wrongly attacks the fat cells in the body.

Management of panniculitis

The aim of treatment is to manage the root cause of panniculitis if determined and alleviate any current symptoms. While treatment is ongoing, the individual is instructed to get enough rest and raise the affected area if possible.

The treatment options tend to vary such as:

  • If due to a medication, the medication should be stopped. Just make sure that a doctor is consulted first.
  • In case a bacterial infection is the cause, anti-inflammatory antibiotics such as tetracycline is given to clear the infection.
  • If due to sarcoidosis, medical care is not required since the disease often settles on its own over time.

Oftentimes, simple lifestyle modifications, over-the-counter pain medications and supportive bandages are enough to control any flare-ups. Some of the treatment options to help alleviate the symptoms include:

  • Anti-inflammatory pain medications for joint pain and sore skin nodules
  • Potassium iodide solution to relieve the symptoms which is believed to influence the white blood cells
  • Inflammation can be managed using steroid creams, tablets or injections or even with immunosuppressants if the immune system is the cause
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