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Granuloma Annulare

What is Granuloma Annulare and Who Gets It?

Granuloma annulare is a skin condition that causes a round, smooth bump. This will become ring-shaped with a center of clear skin. The affected skin can be pink or purple. Since this spot doesn’t peel or itch, it can often go unnoticed. With some people, a wider rash of flesh-colored or purple bumps can develop. Granuloma annulare can spread to other parts of the body before clearing. This is called “generalized” granuloma annulare. Children with this condition may develop, harmless lumps under their skin on the scalp, hands and legs. 

Granuloma annulare can form anywhere on the skin, but it’s most likely to appear on the top of the hands, feet or on the elbows and knees. The cause of the condition isn’t known, however it’s believed by dermatologists and researchers that the immune system may be involved. A link between granuloma annulare and HIV, thyroid disease and diabetes. For some, insect bites, sun exposure and skin injuries can trigger granuloma annulare.

Anyone can develop localized granuloma annulare at any age, though it’s most common in females and those younger than 30. Older adults have a higher chance of developing generalized granuloma annulare. Infants rarely get this skin issue.

Diagnosing Granuloma Annulare

A board-certified dermatologist can diagnose this issue by examining the skin. If needed some of the infected skin may be scraped off for a biopsy, which involved microscopically examining the skin. A biopsy can help rule out other conditions such as:

  • Ringworm: A fungal skin condition that requires treatment.
  • Lyme disease: An infectious disease caused by a deer tick bite. This can lead to serious health issues if not treated. Lyme disease usually looks like a circular pattern on the skin.
  • Insect bites: Depending on the insect, some bites may need treatment.
  • Sarcoidosis: An inflammatory disease that affects multiple organs in the body, usually the lungs and lymph nodes. 

A blood test may also be needed to rule out other diseases.

Treating Granuloma Annulare


Usually this condition doesn’t require treatment, since symptoms are often not noticeable. Most of the time, skin will clear up within a few months. Although a rash that clears up can still return later on. If  you have granuloma annulare that covers a large portion of the body or causes deep growths, your dermatologist may recommend treatment. You may also want treatment if you dislike how the patches look cosmetically. 

A customized plan will be recommended, with treatments such as:

  • Corticosteroid cream or ointment can be applied to the skin while at home to clear up bumps and patches. Use this medicine as directed, as it can cause unwanted side effects otherwise. 
  • Corticosteroid injections are injected directly into the affected skin to clear it up.
  • Light therapy involves exposing affected skin to UV rays in a controlled manner. This can include a therapy called PUVA, which involves taking a medication called psoralen and then treating with UVA light. This may be suggested for widespread rash. 

Corticosteroids

A corticosteroid works by suppressing the activity of the immune system and reducing the production of chemicals that create inflammation. Learn More

Light Therapy

Originally developed for Navy seals to help wounds heal quicker, light therapy has been shown to be highly therapeutic for skin. Learn More

Oral and Topical Medications

Dermatologists are experts in bacterial, viral and fungal infections in the skin and have a deep knowledge of how to best use antibiotics, antiviral and antifungal medications. Learn More

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