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What causes panniculitis?

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Quick Answer

The most common cause for panniculitis is infection; however, disorders in the connective tissue or pancreas, a deficiency of Alpha-antitrypsin and such physical factors as trauma and the cold can also cause outbreaks. Idiopathic panniculitis is sometimes called Weber-Christian disease, notes Merck Manuals.

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Full Answer

Panniculitis refers to swelling of the fat beneath the skin. Tender nodules form under the skin over the extremities as well as over the abdomen, face, buttocks, breast or posterior thorax. Less commonly, nodules can affect the lungs, cranium and scrotum. In addition to panniculitis, patients often develop signs of inflammation at the systemic level, such as fever and organ dysfunction. Hepatic, bone marrow and pancreatic insufficiency can all result, and insufficiency in the bone marrow is possibly fatal, as stated by Merck Manuals.

People suffering from these nodules submit to a clinical evaluation and, if the doctor suspects panniculitis, a biopsy of the subcutaneous swelling to find the cause. No specific treatment exists to fight panniculitis, although a hybrid of treatments, including antimalarial drugs, anti-inflammatories, thalidomide and dapsone, have all produced moderate success. Corticosteroids and other chemotherapeutic or immunosuppressive drugs have worked with patients either showing a systemic condition or progressive symptoms, according to Merck Manuals.

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