Some skin conditions have become common knowledge, like eczema, warts, acne, and skin cancer. But the more informed you are, the better care you can take of your health. That’s why our board-certified dermatologists and physician assistants at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta are so passionate about educating our patients. To work toward this goal, today we’re answering some common questions patients ask about a lesser-known skin condition: granuloma annulare.
What is granuloma annulare?
Granuloma annulare, or GA, is often a distinctive rash diagnosable on sight. A granuloma is a cluster of immune cells which generally function to wall off an infection or foreign object. An annulus is a doughnut shape, so GA appears as red raised circles or a series of raised bumps some of which may be arranged in a circle on your skin. It can appear suddenly and give patients a scare, but it’s generally a benign and cosmetic condition that doesn’t put your health at risk.
How do I know if I have granuloma annulare or ringworm?
It’s very common for granuloma annulare to be mistaken for ringworm because their symptoms look similar. Ringworm is not actually a worm, but a fungal infection that causes ring-shaped rashes on the skin. Your dermatologist, possibly with the aid of a biopsy or skin scraping, can determine the difference.
What causes granuloma annulare?
The cause of granuloma annulare has not yet been determined. Researchers do believe, though, that there is a genetic link and that certain “triggers” cause the symptoms to arise. Given the appearance of granulomas which attempt to wall off, foreign proteins (from insect or animal bites and minor injuries to the skin) and infections (like Epstein-Barr, HIV, Hepatitis C, tuberculosis and herpes zoster) are among possible triggers. It also seems to be associated with type I diabetes and thyroid disease.
Is granuloma annulare contagious?
No. While researchers don’t know the exact causes of granuloma annulare, they do know that it’s not contagious.
How can you treat granuloma annulare?
While it doesn’t carry a risk for your health, granuloma can bring plenty of emotional discomfort to patients. The rash often goes away on its own, but it usually takes two years or more, so it’s understandable to want to speed up the timeline. After the diagnosis is confirmed, granuloma annulare can be treated with topical medications, corticosteroid injections, cryotherapy (freezing the bumps), light-based or laser skin treatments, and in rare cases of widespread rashes, oral medications. Your treatment method will depend on your condition and your specific needs, but our providers can help you find the best solution.
Fortunately, granuloma annulare is a rather harmless skin condition in the long run, but it doesn’t feel that way to those who suffer from it. Plus, skin conditions that may be more serious and contagious can be mistaken for granuloma annulare, so whether you plan to treat it or not, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis. The rule of thumb is that if something appears on your skin and you don’t know what it is, schedule an appointment with an experienced board-certified dermatologist.
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