Rheumatoid arthritis nodules are lumps in the skin that develop in some individuals with long-term rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is a chronic inflammatory disease that often affects the joints in the feet and in the hands. Their sizes usually vary, from a few millimeters to more than 0.5 inch (1.27 cm). They are more frequently seen in men than in women. Aside from the development of rheumatoid arthritis nodules, other symptoms of RA include swelling of the joints, redness of the affected area, joint pain, and fever. Many patients also experience joint stiffness that can last for a few hours in the morning.
Patients with RA who also tested positive for rheumatoid factor (RF) in the blood, are commonly affected by the formation of rheumatoid arthritis nodules. RF is a blood test that indicates inflammation inside the body. The test is generally done by extracting blood in the arm vein and processing the blood sample in the laboratory for the presence of RF.
Most of these rheumatoid arthritis nodules occur in skin areas often exposed to pressure. These include the heels, fingers, elbows, and back of the head. They can be identified through their flesh-colored appearance, that usually feel rubbery and firm to the touch, and which can be movable or not. Some nodules may also develop in the heart and tendons.
The presence of rheumatoid arthritis nodules does not often pose problems in affected individuals. In such cases, there is usually no treatment given. There are some individuals, however, who develop rheumatoid arthritis nodules in the feet and other sites which can result in irritation, infection and nerve problems. These cases may need to be addressed with medications and sometimes, surgery.
There are several drugs prescribed for the treatment of RA. These drugs are commonly known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). During treatment, the rheumatoid arthritis nodules may shrink in response to treatment. In some patients with large rheumatoid arthritis nodules in the feet, injection of drugs in the area, or removal of the nodules through surgery, may be called for.
Because RA is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system of the body attacks its own cells, there is still no cure available. These medications are often given to slow down the progression of the disease and provide relief for discomfort and pain. It is often recommended by health experts that as soon as symptoms of RA are observed, patients should go to their physician for evaluation in order to be given proper treatment. The symptoms of RA usually start with the smaller joints first, such as those in the wrists and ankles, and occurs simultaneously on similar joints on both sides of the body.