Granuloma annulare is a chronic degenerative skin disorder. The most common form is localized granuloma annulare, which is characterized by the presence of small, firm red or yellow colored bumps (nodules or papules) that appear arranged in a ring on the skin. In most cases, the sizes of the lesions range from one to five centimeters. The most commonly affected sites include the feet, hands, and fingers. In addition to the localized form, there are four less common forms: generalized or disseminated, linear, perforating, and subcutaneous. The lesions associated with granuloma annulare usually disappear without treatment (spontaneous remission). However, the lesions often reappear. The exact cause of granuloma annulare is unknown.
Five recognized forms or clinical variants of granuloma annulare have been identified. The most common form is localized granuloma annulare. The four other forms (i.e., generalized or disseminated, linear, perforating, and subcutaneous) occur less often than the localized form. All forms of granuloma annulare are characterized by small, firm bumps (nodules or papules) arranged in a ring on the skin. These bumps are usually skin-colored or slightly red or yellow. Most cases of granuloma annulare clear up without treatment (spontaneous resolution). However, recurrences are common.
Granuloma annulare may affect any area of the body. The fingers, hands and feet are the areas most often affected. In most cases both sides of the body are affected (symmetrical). Other commonly affected areas include the forehead, neck and abdomen. Localized granuloma annulare normally affects one specific area of the body.
Generalized or disseminated granuloma annulare may affect several areas of the body at one time. The bumps associated with this form of GA are usually smaller and more numerous than those associated with the localized form. These bumps may also be itchy (pruritic).
Subcutaneous granuloma annulare may present as a solitary, painless mass or nodule underneath the skin (subcutaneous). The scalp, arms, and legs are most often affected. Children are affected more often than adults.
Perforating granuloma annulare is characterized by bumps or pustules that develop a yellow center. These lesions may leak a clear fluid, become crusted and eventually leave a scar. These lesions may come together (coalesce) to form larger plaques.
Linear granuloma is an extremely rare form of granuloma annulare that most often affects the fingers.
The exact cause of granuloma annulare is unknown (idiopathic). Numerous theories exist linking the cause to trauma, sun exposure, thyroid disease, tuberculosis, and various viral infections. However, no definitive proof has been shown for any of these theories.
The disseminated type of the disorder, which affects large areas of the body, may be associated with diabetes mellitus. Granuloma annulare may also be a complication of pseudorheumatoid nodules or shingles (herpes zoster). Some forms of GA tend to run in families (familial), but the exact mode of inheritance has not yet been determined. (For more information on the above disorders, chooses “Diabetes Mellitus” and “Herpes Zoster” as your search terms in the Rare Disease Database.)
Granuloma annulare occurs more often in females than males. The disorder can affect people of any age, but occurs most frequently in children and young adults. The prevalence of granuloma annulare in the general population is unknown. Localized granuloma annulare occurs more often than the others forms.
In many cases, the eruptions of granuloma annulare disappear without treatment (spontaneous remission). Therefore, many affected individuals do not require specific treatment. However, the episodes of the disorder may recur. Treatments for chronic forms of the disorder include corticosteroid drugs such as dapsone and isotretinoin, which is the synthetic form of retinoic acid (related to vitamin A).
A procedure known as psoralen plus ultraviolet A radiation (PUVA) may also be used to treat individuals with granuloma annulare, especially the generalized form. This procedure may be referred to as photochemotherapy. During this procedure, affected individuals topically apply the drug psoralen. Affected individuals are then treated with ultraviolet A light, which activates the drug. PUVA therapy has been effective in treating individuals with granuloma annulare. More research is necessary to determine the long-term safety and effectiveness of topical PUVA therapy for individuals with granuloma annulare.
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