Erythromelalgia – The Syndrome of Red, Hot Feet (and sometimes hands)

Erythromelalgia is a rare disorder in which blood vessels, usually in the lower extremities, are episodically blocked and inflamed. It is a condition characterized by episodes of pain, redness, and swelling in various parts of the body, particularly the hands and feet. These episodes are usually triggered by increased body temperature, which may be caused by exercise or entering a warm room. Ingesting alcohol or spicy foods may also trigger an episode. Wearing warm socks, tight shoes, or gloves can cause a pain episode so debilitating that it can impede everyday activities such as wearing shoes and walking. Pain episodes can prevent an affected person from going to school or work regularly. This condition may occur spontaneously (primary EM) or secondary to neurological diseases, autoimmune diseases, or myeloproliferative disorders (secondary EM). Erythromelalgia is often considered a form of peripheral neuropathy because it affects the peripheral nervous system, which connects the brain and spinal cord to muscles and to cells that detect sensations such as touch, smell, and pain.

Erythromelalgia is the name applied to the clinical syndrome of red, hot extremities. Most often, the feet are involved; less often the hands are also involved; rarely, the face (ears especially) may be involved. In this short video, Dr. Mark Davis describes what this syndrome is, what is known about why it happens, how it is diagnosed and managed. The video also describes the Mayo Clinic experience with this syndrome and what Mayo Clinic has to offer patients who decide to come for an opinion concerning their condition.