Eosinophilic fasciitis is a very rare syndrome in which muscle tissue underneath the skin, called fascia, becomes swollen and thick. Rapid swelling can occur in the hands, arms, legs, and feet.
The disease is similar in appearance to scleroderma but is not related.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The cause of eosinophilic fasciitis is unknown. Fewer than 300 cases have been reported in the past 35 years.
People with this condition have a buildup of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, in the affected fascia and muscles. Eosinophils are related to allergic reactions, but their exact function is unknown.
The syndrome affects people of any age, but is more common in people ages 30 to 60.
Treatment with corticosteroids and other immune-suppressing medications relieves symptoms, especially when started early in the disease. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may also help relieve symptoms.
If blood diseases develop, they are treated based on their type.
In most cases, the condition goes away within 3 to 5 years. However, symptoms may return (recur) or persist. The outlook is much worse if blood diseases occur.
Arthritis is a rare complication of eosinophilic fasciitis. Some patients may develop very serious blood disorders or blood-related cancers, such as aplastic anemia or leukemia.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider for an appointment if you have symptoms of this disorder.
Michael E. Makover, MD, professor and attending in Rheumatology at the New York University Medical Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.