The Symptoms and Treatment of Granuloma Annulare

Granuloma annulare doesn't usually cause pain, but it does cause itching and cosmetic discomfort. It's a rare skin disease for which the specific cause is still unknown.
The Symptoms and Treatment of Granuloma Annulare
Elisa Martin Cano

Written and verified by the doctor Elisa Martin Cano.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Granuloma annulare is an inflammatory disease that appears on the skin. Its name is because it’s characterized by circular, ring-shaped protuberances. They’re lumpy, reddish-colored lesions that usually disappear on their own.

The truth is that granuloma annulare is a rare disease. It can affect anyone, but usually appears in young people around 10 years of age. The cause is not well known, but according to statistics, it affects more women than men.

This condition doesn’t usually cause discomfort. However, it’s quite visible and, therefore, an aesthetical problem. In addition, some people experience a lot of itching in the bumps.

Many of its aspects are still the subject of research, but it seems that it may have to do with some infections and even neoplasms. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about granuloma annulare to identify it.

What is granuloma annulare?

As we’ve already mentioned, it’s a chronic inflammatory disease of the skin. It consists of the formation of lumpy, reddish, ring-shaped lesions. They usually appear on the hands and feet.

The truth is that, although we know that it affects more women and young people, its exact cause is known. However, research has shown that certain factors can trigger it. For example, it may be a side effect of some medications.

Other possible causes include insect bites and even a reaction to vaccines. Granuloma annulare has also been linked to infections, such as hepatitis for example. However, it’s important to bear in mind that it’s not a contagious disease.

Although granuloma annulare usually disappears within two years without treatment, it’s important to study it well. Scientists are trying to demonstrate its association with other systemic pathologies.

It seems that it may be related to certain diseases of the thyroid gland and diabetes. It could even be caused by certain cancerous processes. In these cases, there are usually more lesions all over the body and they don’t respond well to treatments.

A man scratching his wrist.
The hands are one of the sites that granuloma annulare affects the most.

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What symptoms does it produce?

Apart from the bumps, this illness doesn’t necessarily produce symptoms. The lesions can be of different colors, from bluish to a reddish flesh color. They’re all ring-shaped and expand outward, with a slightly sunken center.

The lesions are sensitive to touch, but don’t cause pain. However, they can be a cosmetic problem or cause itching. Especially when there are many bumps scattered over the body.

Furthermore, experts classify the disease into different classes:

  • First, we have localized granuloma annulare, which is the most frequent type. It usually appears on the hands and feet, and the lesions can measure up to 2 inches.
  • There’s also generalized granuloma annulare, which extends over the whole body.
  • Finally, there’s a subcutaneous granuloma. In this case, the bumps are small and firm and aren’t usually reddish in color.
    localized granuloma annulare
Red circular lessions on a person's arm.
The localized form of the disease is the most common.

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How is granuloma annulare treated?

Granuloma annulare causes very characteristic lesions, so it’s usually easy to diagnose. Even so, when in doubt, dermatologists sometimes request a skin biopsy to confirm it. As mentioned above, the bumps usually disappear on their own after some time.

So, the disease lasts at most two years. Therefore, it doesn’t necessarily require treatment. However, granuloma annulare can indeed be annoying aesthetically or because of itching.

For this reason, there are certain therapeutic options. In some cases, corticosteroid creams can be used to accelerate the disappearance of the lesions. These drugs can even be injected when there’s no response to creams.

In some cases, physicians use phototherapy techniques to treat granuloma annulare. Finally, when the lesions are widespread and generalized, oral medications are prescribed. However, the most important thing is to go to the doctor and let him choose the most appropriate treatment.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.