How Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect the Skin?

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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is not usual joint disease. Since it is associated with the abnormality of the body immune system, the effect of the disease can be systemic. In other words, it can lead to problems or complications that have nothing to do with the joints. For instance, it can affect the skin, too – how and why?

Common RA complications

image_illustration312All arthritis forms could cause serious complications if left untreated. But in RA, the complications of the disease can be more significant!

Though RA primarily affects the joints, but it can affects other parts of the body, too.

For instances, if it is poorly controlled, the inflammatory process of the disease can also affect heart, lungs, eyes, bones, blood vessels, and nerves. In other words, it is not only about joint disease because it can affect the overall health of patient.

Heart problems

Shortness of breath and coughing in people with RA may signal serious problems such as lung disease and heart problems. These symptoms are commonly attributed to a condition called atherosclerosis, narrowing and hardening arteries.

According to one study, those with RA tend to die from cardiovascular diseases. The risk to have a heart attack can be about 2-3 times higher than those without RA. See more the link between RA and heart problems in here!

Lung problems

A study in 2010 published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism found that the risk of lung disease in people with RA is higher than general population. See in-depth information about how RA can increase the risk of lung disease in this section!

For instance a condition called interstitial lung disease, inflammation and scarring in the lungs, is pretty common in those who suffer from RA. The risk to develop this lung disorder is about 7.7 percent in those with RA.

Eye problems

RA is systemic condition, since again it can affect the entire body if left untreated or poorly controlled. Another common complication is eye disease particularly such as dry eye syndrome.

The poorly controlled of RA inflammatory process can make the cornea and the whites of eyes become inflamed. Even in severe case, the problem may lead to blindness. Explore more the link between RA and eye diseases in this post!

Low blood cells count

These may include low counts of white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets (colorless cells of the blood). While RA itself may have a direct contribution to cause low blood cells count, but many times the cause is the use of some medications for RA.

For instance, anemia is pretty common in those with this arthritis. And some medications that are prescribed to help treat RA have potential side effect to cause anemia – see more in here!

The risk of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis attacks bones, causing bone fractures. And the inflammatory process associated with RA and some medications for the disease can carry the risk of osteoporosis, too!

There are some possible reasons of why RA can predispose the sufferers to osteoporosis. For more detailed information about this issue, see here!

RA can affect nerves

There is also a chance for the disease to cause nerve damage. In those with RA, the warning signs of nerve damage may include balance issues or/and neck pain.

Poorly-controlled inflammation of RA can affect the spinal cord (especially the cervical spine, the upper part of the spinal cord). The joints deterioration in the neck also will put pressure on the spine nerves, causing irritation.

Why and how does RA affect the skin?

RA is primarily a disorder of the joints, that’s why it belongs to group of diseases what we call as arthritis. But again, it is not only about joint disease. The disease itself and some medications to treat it can lead to some skin problems.

In general, RA can affect the skin when the RA inflammation has affected the small blood vessels that supply blood to the skin.

Skin nodules

One of common skin problems associated with RA is rheumatoid nodules. About 20 percent of sufferers experience this complication.

Typically, the nodules grow under the skin surrounding the joints or bones such as finger, elbow, and ankle. They range in size, from the size of a pea to as big as a ball for ping pong. The prognosis and outlook for them to go away can vary, too – see more in here!

In a few cases, the presence of rheumatoid nodules in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may signal a condition called rheumatoid vasculitis, an inflammation of medium & small-sized blood vessels.

Rheumatoid vasculitis affects about 1 out of 100 sufferers with RA. And arteries (blood vessels that carry blood rich in oxygen and nutrients from the heart to cells of the body) are the most commonly affected.


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