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Panniculitis is a group of diseases whose hallmark is inflammation of subcutaneous adipose tissue (the fatty layer under the skin – panniculus adiposus). Symptoms include tender skin nodules, and systemic signs such as weight loss and fatigue.

Restated, an inflammatory disorder primarily localized in the subcutaneous fat is termed a "panniculitis", a group of disorders that may be challenging both for the clinician and the dermatopathologist. The general term for inflammation of any adipose tissue is steatitis.

Signs and Symptoms:

Panniculitis can also be classified based on the presence or absence of systemic symptoms. Panniculitis without systemic disease can be a result of trauma or cold. Panniculitis with systemic disease can be caused by:

  • Connective tissue disorders such as lupus erythematosus or scleroderma;

  • Lymphoproliferative disease such as lymphoma or histiocytosis;

  • Pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer;

  • Sarcoidosis with cutaneous involvement (seen in up to 20 percent);

  • Alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency

  • Crohn's disease


Usual treatments for panniculitis include:

  • Treating the underlying causes, such as taking antibiotics for infections

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen

  • Compression stockings, which have been shown to help relieve panniculitis symptoms in the legs

  • Bed rest to help the body recover

  • Corticosteroids

  • Surgery to remove the bumps, though this is generally not necessary


The most common form of panniculitis, erythema nodosum, generally resolves without treatment within 2 to 6 weeks. The recovery time depends on the cause of the panniculitis.

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Link to DermNet NZ article on dermatology from DermUK

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