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Clinical features and management of erythromelalgia: long term follow-up of 46 cases.

OBJECTIVES: To review our clinical experience of this rare condition and describe the clinical features and response to therapy in a cohort of patients with erythromelalgia (EM), a rare condition, characterised by paroxysmal hyperthermia of the extremities with erythema, pain and intense burning.

METHODS: A review was made of the electronic and paper medical records of patients with the diagnosis of EM, with a telephone interview to verify and complete clinical information relating treatment and outcome.

RESULTS: 46 patients (41 females) were included in this study. Mean age was 57 years and mean duration of symptoms was 16 years. Raynaud's phenomenon was present in 36 patients (80%) and 4 patients (9%) had systemic sclerosis. Smoking (current or previous) was identified as a possible risk factor in 26 cases and exposure to chronic vibration in 3 cases. Overall, the effect on quality of life was mild in 15% of cases, moderate in 30% and severe in 48%. The most common symptoms were burning (96%), heat (93%), pain (87%), and redness (83%). Symptoms affected the lower limbs in 98% of cases, upper limbs in 76%, face in 20% and trunk in 11%. Triggers included heat (85%), exercise (78%) and time of day (76%). Various medications were tried, showing poor effect in most cases. Intravenous iloprost was given to 27 patients, with benefit in 17 patients (63%).

CONCLUSIONS: Erythromelalgia is a rare chronic debilitating condition. Exercise, heat and night time are common triggers. Current medical therapies are seldom effective and further research is sorely needed.

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