Golfer’s Vasculitis: Oops, I did it again!

July 22, 2016 | By More
Crowds in Florence near the Duomo on a hot, humid day

Crowds in Florence near the Piazza del Duomo on a hot, humid day

Five things you should know about “Golfers Vasculitis (aka Disney Rash)…”

We had a great day planned with friends: a morning tour at the Uffizi Gallery; followed by lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Florence, Trattoria Cammillo; and an on-our-own walking tour of the city in the afternoon.

View of the Ponte Vecchio from the Uffizi Gallery

View of the Ponte Vecchio from the Uffizi Gallery

Birth of Venus in the Uffizi Gallery

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli in the Uffizi Gallery

Although it was only May, the changeable weather had turned oppressively hot and humid. After retrieving our rental van from one of the city’s public parking lots at the end of the day, I noticed that both my legs had a now-recognizable red rash just above the ankles: telltale sign of Golfer’s Vasculitis.

Golfer's Vasculitis in Florence

Golfer’s Vasculitis in Florence

Golfer's Vasculitis in Florence (closeup of right leg)

Golfer’s Vasculitis in Florence (closeup of right leg)

Oops, I did it again

Last year, I encountered this same, often misdiagnosed, malady for the first time. After a long, hot, but enjoyable day exploring the historic center of Orvieto, I was proud of the miles I had logged onto my Fitbit. But I freaked out when I glanced down at my legs.

Had I been bitten by an insect or spider? Even worse, bedbugs? Was I allergic to new laundry detergent or the bedding in the room? Was it cellulitis? The mind does tend to wander.

It turned out to be none of the above. Like any good researcher, I self-diagnosed my case of Golfer’s Vasculitis after finding pictures of equally ugly legs (and some worse ones) on Google. My physician confirmed the diagnosis after I sent him an email with a series of “wish-you-were-here” photos.

Golfer's Vasculitis in Orvieto (closeup of right leg)

Golfer’s Vasculitis in Orvieto (closeup of right leg)

Should it happen to you, here are five things need to know about Golfer’s Vasculitis:

1) Golfer’s Vasculitis is usually harmless, resolves on its own, and affects people who are relatively healthy. 

It is a form of vasculitis (an inflammation of blood vessels) that appears as a rash, usually above one’s ankles (above the sock line, if you are wearing them). It can extend as high as one’s thighs and affects both legs rather than one.

The red spots are hot and feel like sunburn. The rash usually doesn’t itch or blister but can cause swelling, especially around the ankles. It looks worse than it feels.

2) To promote awareness, medical researchers have suggested calling the condition Golfer’s Vasculitis.

In one of the few published studies, an Australian medical researcher suggested using one standard term to promote awareness of the disorder. In both the medical and lay literature, Golfer’s Vasculitis is variously referred to as:

  • Disney Rash
  • Epcot Rash
  • Dollywood Rash
  • Hiker’s Rash, and
  • Exercise-Induced Vasculitiis (EIV)

3) Some individual factors place certain individuals at greater risk than others for experiencing this condition:

  • Being over the age of 50
  • Being female
  • Having blood relatives who have had it
  • Having had it before (oops…)

4) Situational/environmental factors also come into play. 

The condition tends to occur among at-risk individuals (already predisposed to getting it) who spend extended periods of time on their feet in hot, humid climates.

For example, the rash is often reported after:

  • Taking long hikes, city walks, or walking tours
  • Visiting amusement parks (like Disney)
  • Taking cruise excursions
  • Participating in charity walks
  • Playing golf

5) Unfortunately, there’s little you (or I) can do to prevent Golfer’s vasculitis. 

Aside from staying hydrated and stopping to elevate your feet whenever you have the opportunity, there aren’t many practical prevention strategies.

Experts recommend wearing open shoes that are more breathable. Although flip-flops or sandals might reduce the odds of the rash appearing, they predispose travelers to other dangers, especially when walking on uneven streets or in crowded places.

Others suggest wearing compression hosiery, although it can be quite uncomfortable when visiting hot, humid places for extended periods of time.


Read more about Golfer’s Vasculitis:

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Category: TIPS

Comments (20)

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  1. Hi Irene! I get this, too, and have for years, off and on, when I’ve done a lot more walking than usual. I had never heard it termed Golfer’s Vasculitis or the others you mentioned, however! I looked it up on dermatology sites and cannot find what term I found years ago, but now I know it’s temporary and not a serious condition. I have had swelling along with it a couple of times, though, and wear compression knee-high stockings on flights.

  2. Laura says:

    Alyssa and I swear by these sandals. Their bottoms are like athletic shoes.

    http://m.zappos.com/cobb-hill-fiona-taupe

    • The only danger of shoes like this as walking shoes (like other sandals) is that they leave your toes exposed to dangers…Better than flip-flops for sure!

  3. My hubby has had this quite a few times after long hikes or long (6 hour) walks in crowded cities pounding pavements and we’ve wondered what it might be! Now we know! Thanks Irene!

  4. Janice Chung says:

    OMG I’ve never heard of this and when I looked at your list of who is at greater risk, I was so ticked off! Women, over 50….same demographic for those most likely to get frozen shoulder (Yup, got it in both shoulders).
    Glad to hear it isn’t too painful, although it certainly looks like it is. Thanks for sharing….I think!

  5. I didn’t know this had a name! Thank you Dr. Levine!

  6. Donna Janke says:

    Good to know about this. I’ve never had Golfer’s Vasculitis. I would have imagined all kinds of things about it – like you my mind would wander. I hope I don’t ever get it, but if I do I’ll now know what it is and not imagine the worst!

  7. Disney rash is a great one. I have not heard of this malady so this was quite informative.

  8. Sue Reddel says:

    I’ve never heard of Golfers Vasculitis – and I’m a golfer! Oh the joys of being over 50. I’ll be on the look out for it now. Thanks for the great information.

  9. Well, I learn something new every day. Now I will quickly try to forget this:) Here\’s to you never having to deal with it again.

  10. Oh dear. Another age related malady to worry about. OTOH, I’ve never had it and I’ve done lots of walking in hot places. However, now that I think about it, I really wilt in hot humid weather, so maybe I collapse before I walk enough to give myself golfers’ vasculitis.

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