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Generalized granuloma annulare in Adult
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Generalized granuloma annulare in Adult

Contributors: Christopher Iriarte MD, Tanya Nino MD, Linda Golkar MD, Susan Burgin MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Generalized granuloma annulare (GGA), also known as disseminated granuloma annulare, is characterized by widespread papules and/or annular plaques made up of firm, pink or skin-colored papules. These lesions are usually asymptomatic or only mildly pruritic. While granuloma annulare can present with more localized variants, the generalized form may involve any area of the body, most commonly the trunk and extremities. Often, these lesions have a predilection for the skin folds (ie, axillae and groin). Rarely, mucocutaneous involvement can occur.

In contrast to other variants of granuloma annulare, the generalized form has a bimodal distribution, predominantly affects children younger than 10 years and adults older than 40 years, has a more prolonged course, and is more resistant to treatment. Granuloma annulare does not favor any particular ethnicity or region. Disseminated disease occurs in approximately 15% of patients with granuloma annulare, with a greater incidence in females than males.

Although the etiology of granuloma annulare is poorly understood, there are rare reports of associations with infections, systemic diseases, hematologic malignancies, and solid tumor malignancies. In particular, hypothesized infectious associations are tuberculosis, HIV, Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis B and C virus, and herpes zoster virus. Systemic diseases reported to have a connection with granuloma annulare are diabetes mellitus (see type 1, type 2) and thyroid disease. Chronic stress has been reported as a trigger. There have also been cases of granuloma annulare following trauma or insect bites. Familial cases have led to the hypothesis of an association with specific human leukocyte antigen (HLA) phenotypes. While these factors all may be initiators of granuloma annulare, the mechanism of lesion formation has many possibilities. Current hypotheses include a delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction, a cell-mediated immune response, a cytokine-mediated breakdown of connective tissue, or a primary degeneration of connective tissue with an ensuing granulomatous inflammation.


L92.0 – Granuloma annulare

402364005 – Generalized granuloma annulare

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Diagnostic Pearls

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Actinic granuloma produces annular plaques similar to those of granuloma annulare but is specifically located on sun-exposed skin.
  • Necrobiosis lipoidica is characterized by shiny, red-brown plaques on the lower legs of diabetic patients that progressively become more yellow and atrophic with time.
  • Tinea corporis may manifest as annular, erythematous plaques with surface changes of scaling, crusting, papules, or vesicles in the advancing border. Potassium hydroxide (KOH) preparation will show branching hyphae.
  • Erythema migrans is the classic targetoid lesion of Lyme disease that shows concentric rings of erythema with central clearing.
  • Erythema annulare centrifugum presents with annular and erythematous plaques with central clearing and a classic trailing scale at the inner rim of the plaque.
  • Urticaria may present with annular plaques, but these lesions will be fleeting in nature, lasting less than 24 hours.
  • Cutaneous sarcoidosis
  • Exanthematous drug eruption
  • Papular mucinosis

Best Tests

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Management Pearls

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Drug Reaction Data

Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Reviewed:10/14/2020
Last Updated:10/25/2020
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Generalized granuloma annulare in Adult
A medical illustration showing key findings of Generalized granuloma annulare : Widespread distribution, Smooth papules
Clinical image of Generalized granuloma annulare - imageId=1073969. Click to open in gallery.  caption: 'Widespread smooth pink and brownish papules and plaques on the trunk and arm.'
Widespread smooth pink and brownish papules and plaques on the trunk and arm.
Copyright © 2023 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.