Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that usually affects the joints. However, in the case of some patients, the medications used in the treatment of the condition may affect their skin. Let us delve into the details of some of the skin problems that are associated with RA are discussed below.
Rheumatoid nodules are hard bumps of tissues that can be as large as a ping pong ball. About one in five people with rheumatoid arthritis may develop rheumatoid nodules. They usually develop under the skin over bony areas like ankle, elbow or finger, and in some cases, they may also form on organs like lungs.
Treatment with DMARDs (Disease-Modifying antirheumatic drugs) or getting steroid shots may help shrink the nodules. In case they become infected or painful, you will have to get them removed by surgery.
Skin Rash And Ulcers
Although it is rare, nodules can signal that some people have rheumatoid vasculitis, inflammation of the blood vessels (of small and medium-size). But only 1 in 100eople with rheumatoid arthritis get vasculitis, and arteries carrying blood to the skin, internal organs and nerves are the most affected.
If the small vessels of the fingertips and area around fingernails are affected, small pits may develop on the fingertips. There can also be small sores or redness around the nails. Painful rashes are formed when the large blood vessels are affected. This happens most often on the legs. Ulcers may develop in serious cases and there is an increased chance for them to be infected.
Side Effects Of Medications
The skin problems that are often reported by RA patients may be related to the medications they are taking to control RA. Skin problems related to drugs include:
Skin rashes can signal an allergic reaction to a drug and it is important to inform your doctor when your skin starts itching or breaking.
By analyzing the severity of the rash, your doctor may recommend you to lower the dosage or stop it altogether.
Certain arthritis medications may increase the likelihood of your skin getting bruises because some medications may thin down the skin or interfere with blood clotting. Steroids like prednisone and drugs like aspirin are examples.
Some RA medications may increase the sensitivity of your skin to sunlight. Ketoprofen, Diclofenac, Naproxen, Piroxicam, and Diflunisal are some examples of medications that may make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. If you take these medications, it is advisable to avoid direct sunlight and use protective clothing when out in the sun.
If you notice any skin issues while undergoing RA treatment, discuss it with your doctor and take appropriate remedial measures to avoid further complications due to the skin issues.