Like most things in arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that primarily affects the joint – though it can pose the risk of inflammation outside of the joint, too. And in a few cases, the involved joint can be severe enough to develop rheumatoid nodules. The next question, will these nodules go away?
Experts blame the abnormal function of the body immune system for the major reason behind RA, that’s why we call it as an autoimmune disorder, too.
Normally, the immune system has crucial function to protect the body from foreign intruders such as harmful bacteria or virus. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system mistakenly recognizes its own healthy cell or tissue as a harmful object. As result, it can attack the wrong target.
And in RA, synovium (soft tissues surrounding the joint) is the main target of the immune system abnormality. The resulting inflammation swells the synovium, which then may also cause damage to other parts of the joint such as bone, tendon, and cartilage.
This arthritis can be a life-threatening condition if it is poorly controlled. At advanced stage, it can generate serious complications such as cardiovascular diseases, lung problems, eye diseases, and osteoporosis. See more the complications in here!
In other words, it can affect your overall health – therefore we call it as a systemic arthritis. Even sometime it can cause symptoms and signs that have nothing to do with your joint. These include fatigue, sweating, appetite loss, weight loss, or anemia.
These skin nodules affect about 20-35 percent of people with RA. Typically, they are found at advanced stage of the disease or in sufferers who have had RA for many years (especially if the disease is not well controlled).
What actually are they?
We also often call them as lumps. They grow from under the skin and usually close to the involved joints. Many times, they are found around the joints of wrists, heels, ankles, hands, elbows, fingers, knuckles, back of the forearm, or other joints that often get pressure!
The size can vary. They can be as small as a pea, but in some cases they can grow and become as large as a mothball or walnut.
The signs and symptoms vary, too. Many times there is no early symptom. But you eventually notice them from their size. Some sufferers say that their nodules can be painful, press their nerves, and interfere with their daily routines.
Furthermore, they may also occur in some internal organs. For instance, some sufferers with RA may have nodules in the heart and lungs. You may experience hoarseness if you have them on the vocal cords.
Interestingly, while RA affects more women, these skin nodules are more likely to occur in men (particularly for those who are Caucasians). Those with rheumatoid factor (RF) are also at greater chance to have nodules.
RF itself is an indicator of inflammatory disease. Actually, it is an antibody but it is often linked to the abnormality of immune system. Not all people with RA have RF, but those with RF are more likely to have severe form of the disease.
The prognosis may vary from patient to patient. In general, rheumatoid arthritis nodules are not always treated. But if they bother you a lot, some treatments are available to shrink them.