The Mysterious Connection Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Skin Conditions
People living with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop skin conditions. At first glance, the two may not seem connected, but there is much more to this than meets the eye.
While rheumatoid arthritis is primarily known for joint pain, swelling, and inflammation, it is also capable of causing a rash. Most people associate RA with the hands, but it can also impact other parts of the body (like skin, lungs, and even digestive system).
Rheumatoid arthritis is relatively common, with approximately 1 in 100 people developing the condition. However, rheumatoid arthritis rash is far less common.
The rash will usually develop on the fingertips, although it can occur anywhere on the body, and sometimes will be painful. They appear red on the skin, and are often itchy. Sometimes they also look like deep red pinpricks.
While it is unlikely and only occurs in more advanced cases, these rashes can lead to painful ulcers. Once the ulcers are present, they can sometimes become infected, which leads to further issues and difficulty during treatment.
Causes of RA rash
So, why do these unpleasant rashes occur? They are caused by inflammation of the arteries used by the body to transport blood to various organs - with the skin and nerves included. These arteries that become inflamed are referred to as rheumatoid vasculitis. In this way, the inflammation present in your bones spreads throughout the body.
Rheumatoid vasculitis can prompt an RA rash to develop on the surface of the skin, often in spots or patches. When arteries are inflamed either on the fingertips or around them, the spots often become painful when they form. When there are inflamed arteries in the legs, it becomes increasingly probable that a bigger area will start to form a rash.
Symptoms of RA rash
The symptoms of include red patches that vary in size, pain, skin swelling, and itchiness. When RA rashes become advanced, it is possible that ulcers or lesions will develop.
Treating RA rashes
If you have developed an RA rash, there is treatment. However, it is not normally focused on the rash itself, but the underlying condition. This way, the patient can be protected from any future rashes as well. If the intensity of the symptoms of RA are diminished, the rash will clear as a result. Plus, other symptoms will be alleviated that might not have been dealt with otherwise.
However, if a rash is extremely severe, or is at risk of causing an ulcer, a doctor will likely approach the rash directly for treatment. Normally, this method includes topical antibiotics or steroids. The rash itself will be treated, but of equal importance is that the patient will be protected from secondary infections that could cause more drastic problems.
Sometimes, certain skin creams and ointments can be used on RA rashes that do not require a prescription from a doctor. Even while you are treating underlying RA symptoms, these may be useful to alleviate pain and/or itchiness connected to the rash. Topical steroids can also be used, and are often effective in reducing the amount of swelling experienced due to the rash.
While these approaches will normally be effective in treating an RA rash that is caused by symptoms of RA itself, sometimes RA medication that a person is already taking will cause a skin rash. In these cases, it is necessary to discuss with a doctor how to alter their current medication so that these rashes will not persist or become worse.
Read on to learn more about RA medication rashes and other skin conditions that may be associated with RA.