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What is Granuloma Annulare?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Granuloma annulare is a type of benign skin rash that consists of small circles of reddish bumps. It usually appears on the back of the hands or the top of the feet, though the rash can emerge elsewhere on the body. Doctors do not have a clear understanding of why granuloma annulare develops, but it has been associated with thyroid disorders and diabetes. Rashes do not normally cause adverse physical symptoms, though a person may decide to undergo treatment for aesthetic purposes. Prescription topical creams are effective at reducing the size and discoloration of bumps.

The condition is most often seen in young children, though a person can potentially develop granuloma annulare at any age. It is usually isolated to a hand, forearm, or foot. Raised bumps are typically less than half an inch (about 1.25 cm) in diameter, and emerge in ring-shaped clusters. They are typically redder than the person's normal skin tone. The condition may cause slight itching, but pain and other symptoms associated with skin rashes are usually absent.

Most children and adults who experience granuloma annulare are otherwise in good health, which makes the condition confusing to doctors. Some studies have found an increased risk of the condition in patients who suffer from hormonal imbalances, thyroid disease, or childhood diabetes. In addition, stress may play a role in the development and persistence of the rash. In most cases, granuloma annulare goes away on its own between one and two years after its onset.

A person who notices an unusual rash should visit his or her primary care physician to receive a proper diagnosis. A doctor can carefully examine the bumps and rule out other possible skin conditions. The shape of the rash sometimes resembles a ringworm infection, so a skin biopsy may be needed to check for the condition. After making a diagnosis, the doctor can explain the details of granuloma annulare and discuss possible treatment options with the patient.

Since granuloma annulare is not harmful, doctors usually discourage extensive treatment. Some people decide to seek medical remedies to improve the appearance of their hands or feet. Prescription topical corticosteroids can help to reduce inflammation, shrinking the bumps and promoting a faster recovery time. Very large lesions may be cut or frozen off of the body. Patients who have underlying health problems, such as thyroid disorders, may need to take specialized medications to manage their conditions.

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Discussion Comments

By anon112111 — On Sep 19, 2010

i have been dealing with this for about 15 years now and i hate it. it is visible on my hands and feet. i also have it on my legs. every day i wish it to go away.

By anon94941 — On Jul 10, 2010

I've had GA since i was 10. It comes and goes but now I've had spots that have persisted for over a decade. i recently tried applying 90 percent isopropyl alcohol with some good results after Vaseline made the condition worse. i went the other direction and tried drying it out. i made bandages with wide masking tape and paper towels and poured alcohol onto it then taped it over the GA. so far so good.

I'm going to keep trying this method and will update you with my results. I'm also going to buy some MSM tomorrow.

By anon77043 — On Apr 13, 2010

the explanation was a lot simpler than what the specialist charged me for, although she identified my rash she didn't explain it as well as this article.

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