Familial Eosinophilic Cellulitis

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

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It is possible that the main title of the report Familial Eosinophilic Cellulitis is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.


  • Eosinophilic Cellulitis
  • Granulomatous Dermatitis with Eosinophilia
  • Wells syndrome

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Familial eosinophilic cellulitis is a rare skin disorder. It is characterized by raised, red, swollen, and warm areas of skin, in a flame-shaped pattern with associated pain. The exact cause of the disease is unknown. However, bites of spiders, bees, mites, fleas, or ticks (arthropods) are often associated with this skin condition.


Familial eosinophilic cellulitis is a rare skin disorder. It sometimes occurs as an exaggerated response to bites of spiders, bees, fleas, ticks, or mites (arthropods), or it may have other causes such as surgery or drugs. The skin of the person will develop flame shaped patterns of raised, swollen, red areas that are warm to the touch. The episodes usually come on rapidly. Often, familial eosinophilic cellulitis will recur suddenly over a period of years with swelling and redness developing for no apparent reason. The attack may last up to six weeks and may continue to recur for years.

Large areas of skin may be affected and testing shows microscopic changes of the tissue. An abnormal number of white blood cells (eosinophils) are found in the red and swollen areas of skin, underlying fat, and usually in the blood. Skin blistering has also been known to develop.


The exact cause of familial eosinophilic cellulitis is still not known. Some scientists believe that there may be an autoimmune basis for the disorder. Autoimmune disorders are caused when the body's natural defenses (antibodies, lymphocytes, etc.), against invading organisms suddenly begin to attack perfectly healthy tissue.

Affected Populations

Familial eosinophilic cellulitis affects males and females in equal numbers. The disorder is more often found in adults, but it may strike children as well.

Standard Therapies

Standard treatment of familial eosinophilic cellulitis may consist of administration of steroid drugs. However, the disorder often resolves itself after a number of weeks. Other treatment is symptomatic and supportive.

Investigational Therapies

Research on Autoimmune diseases is continuing to determine why these disorders occur and how to treat them. For more information about this research contact the agencies listed in the Resources section of this report.

Information on current clinical trials is posted on the Internet at www.clinicaltrials.gov. All studies receiving U.S. government funding, and some supported by private industry, are posted on this government web site.

For information about clinical trials being conducted at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD, contact the NIH Patient Recruitment Office:

Tollfree: (800) 411-1222

TTY: (866) 411-1010

Email: prpl@cc.nih.gov

For information about clinical trials sponsored by private sources, contact:




Davis MDP, Leiferman KM. Familial Eosinophilic Cellulitis (NORD Guide to Rare Disorders. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Philadelphia, PA. 2003:99.

Champion RH, Burton JL, Ebling FJG. Eds. Textbook of Dermatology. 5th ed. Blackwell Scientific Publications. London, UK; 1992.

Habif TP. Ed. Clinical Dermatology. 2nd ed. The C.V. Mosby Company. St. Louis, MO; 1990.


Holme SA, McHenry P. Nodular presentation of eosinophilic cellulitis (Wells' syndrome). Clin Exp Dermatol. 2001;26:677-79.

Weiss G, Shemer A, Confino Y, et al. Wells' syndrome: report of a case and review of the literature. Int J Dermatol. 2001;40:148-52.

Delaporte E. [From Wells syndrome to "eosinophilic disease"] Ann Dermatol Venereol. 2001;128

(3 Pt 1):207-11.


Moossavi M, Mehregan DR. Wells' syndrome: a clinical and histopathologic review of seven cases. Int J Dermatol. 2003;42:62-67.

Tsuji Y, Kawashima T, Yokota K, et al. Wells' syndrome as a manifestation of hypereosinophilic syndrome. Br J Dermatol. 2002;147:811-12.

Herr H, Koh JK. Eosinophilic cellulitis (Wells' syndrome) successfully treated with low-dose cyclosporine. J Korean Med Sci. 2001;16:664-68.

Seckin D, Demirhan B. Drugs and Wells' syndrome: a possible causal relationship? Int J dermatol. 2001;40:138-40.


Brown J, Schwartz RA. Wells Syndrome (Eosinophilic Cellulitis). eMedicine. Last Updated: August 20, 2002:12 pp.



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