Eosinophilic fasciitis is a rare autoimmune disease that causes your fascia (the stretchy layer of tissue under your skin) to thicken and swell. It shares symptoms with other more common conditions, so talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you notice pain and swelling under your skin.
Eosinophilic fasciitis is a condition that causes your fascia (the layer of tissue under your skin that covers your muscles) to swell and thicken quickly. It’s a type of autoimmune disease, which means your immune system accidentally attacks your body instead of protecting it. If it’s not treated or diagnosed quickly, eosinophilic fasciitis can cause chronic skin changes and limited joint range of motion.
Eosinophilic fasciitis can cause inflammation in fascia located anywhere in your body, but it most commonly affects your arms or legs. Most people notice symptoms such as pain or swelling after intense physical activity.
Eosinophilic fasciitis shares a lot of symptoms with other more common conditions. It’s important to visit your healthcare provider as soon as you notice any new symptoms in your skin, muscles or joints. You may need to visit a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating inflammatory diseases.
There’s no cure for eosinophilic fasciitis, but most cases go away (go into remission) in a few years. It sometimes comes back in people who have had it once.
Both eosinophilic fasciitis and scleroderma are rare autoimmune diseases that cause tissue in your body to thicken. The difference is which kinds of tissues are affected.
Eosinophilic fasciitis affects your fascia, the stretchy layer of connective tissue under your skin. Over time, your fascia thickens and expands, which can make it difficult to move a part of your body.
If you have scleroderma, your immune system triggers other cells to produce too much collagen (a protein). This extra collagen is deposited in your skin and organs, which makes them harden and thicken, similarly to how scars form. But instead of healing over a wound, the extra collagen can damage healthy tissue.
People with autoimmune diseases — including eosinophilic fasciitis — are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Experts haven’t been able to definitively say if having eosinophilic fasciitis makes you more likely to have a severe case of COVID-19. Follow current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to lower your risk of infection.
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Eosinophilic fasciitis can affect anyone, but it most commonly affects people between 30 and 60 years old.
People with certain health conditions may be more likely to develop eosinophilic fasciitis. These conditions include:
Eosinophilic fasciitis is extremely rare. There have only been about 300 cases of eosinophilic fasciitis reported in scientific journals. It may be under recognized and underreported.
Eosinophilic fasciitis causes inflammation in your fascia, the stretchy layer of connective tissue below your skin. Fascia covers and protects your muscles and some of your internal organs. It holds your skin and muscles in place and supports them while they move. Fascia is similar to the stretchy netting you might use in the trunk of your car to hold groceries in place on the way home from the store.
Your fascia naturally has some resistance and toughness to make sure your skin and muscles can’t move too far. But if you have eosinophilic fasciitis, your fascia swells and starts to thicken. Eventually, this inflammation can make it hard to move the skin and muscles around it. If it’s not treated, eosinophilic fasciitis can freeze your fascia in place. This is sometimes referred to as contracture.
Instead of your fascia having its usual tension that supports your limbs while it moves, eosinophilic fasciitis makes it painful or difficult to move the affected parts of your body. The most commonly affected parts of your body include:
It’s less common, but eosinophilic fasciitis can also affect skin on your:
Some people with eosinophilic fasciitis may also develop inflammation of their joints, similar to a condition called rheumatoid arthritis. Uncontrolled joint inflammation can damage the joint cartilage leading to chronic arthritis.
Eosinophilic fasciitis changes (progresses) quickly. It can start noticeably affecting you in as little as a few weeks. Talk to your healthcare provider right away if you notice any symptoms or changes in your body.
Symptoms of eosinophilic fasciitis include:
Experts aren’t sure what causes eosinophilic fasciitis. Like lots of autoimmune diseases, it develops suddenly and sometimes randomly.
Some studies have found that autoimmune diseases can be triggered — something happens to you that makes them develop. Some triggers may include certain types of infections or allergic reactions. Experts think using certain medications or recreational drugs can be triggers for autoimmune diseases too.
Some people with eosinophilic fasciitis notice their symptoms for the first time after intense physical activity like running, working out or doing a job that puts a lot of stress on their arms or legs.
Talk to your healthcare provider about any risk factors you may have for developing an autoimmune disease.
Your healthcare provider can diagnose eosinophilic fasciitis in a few ways, including:
It's not common, but your symptoms may improve randomly without any treatment. More commonly, your healthcare provider will treat eosinophilic fasciitis with corticosteroids. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and lower your immune system’s activity. Prednisone is the most common corticosteroid used to treat eosinophilic fasciitis.
Your provider may use other treatments in addition to corticosteroids, including:
Make sure to take your medication as often as your healthcare provider says you should (and for as long as they prescribe). If your provider or physical therapist gives you stretches or other exercises, do them as often as they suggest to help stretch your affected fascia.
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you may need to wear a brace that holds your wrist in place while you’re sleeping. Wear it as often as your provider instructs.
The inflammation caused by eosinophilic fasciitis should get better a few hours after your first dose of corticosteroids. This relief may be temporary, and your symptoms may come back as corticosteroids or NSAIDs start wearing off. Take your medications as often as your provider prescribes them.
There's no known way to prevent eosinophilic fasciitis. Because experts aren’t sure what triggers or causes autoimmune diseases, there’s no way to know when — or why — you’ll develop one.
If you have eosinophilic fasciitis, you should expect to manage your symptoms for a while. Talk to your healthcare provider about any changes in your symptoms, especially if they’re getting worse.
There’s no cure for eosinophilic fasciitis. Most people have it for a few years before it goes away (enters remission). Some people with eosinophilic fasciitis never have it again, but others have cases that come back later (recur).
If you can do your job or schoolwork without putting extra stress on your affected fascia, you shouldn’t need to miss work or school while you’re recovering from eosinophilic fasciitis. Your provider will tell you which activities you should avoid while you’re recovering.
Talk to your provider before resuming any intense physical activity like running or working out.
Visit your healthcare provider as soon as you notice any new symptoms in your arms, legs or joints — especially if you’re experiencing pain or swelling that doesn’t get better after a few days of rest.
Talk to your provider right away if you’ve already been diagnosed with eosinophilic fasciitis and you notice your symptoms getting worse or if a part of your body is beginning to stiffen.
Go to the emergency room if you suddenly can’t move or use a part of your body.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Eosinophilic fasciitis is extremely rare. Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice new pain in your arms or legs, especially if it’s not going away or getting better after a few days. Eosinophilic fasciitis can progress very quickly, so the sooner you get your symptoms examined, the faster your provider can diagnose what’s causing them. Your provider will work with you to find a combination of corticosteroids and other treatments to manage your eosinophilic fasciitis symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/15/2022.
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