Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Select An Article
Font Size

Rheumatoid Nodules

Rheumatoid nodules are firm lumps located under the skin. The nodules grow close to the affected joints. Rheumatoid nodules can be as large as a walnut or as small as a pea.

Twenty percent to 35% of adults with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) get rheumatoid nodules. Sometimes the nodules are movable. Or, they can be firmly connected to tendons or fascia under the skin.

Recommended Related to Rheumatoid Arthritis

Working With Your Doctor to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis

Studies have shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis who see a rheumatologist regularly (several times a year) do better than people who visit erratically or not at all. The first step is finding one! Your primary care doctor can refer you to a rheumatologist. If you like your doctor and have a good relationship, chances are good you'll get along with the rheumatologist your doctor recommends. You may be able to see a rheumatologist directly without a referral; check your insurance plan...

Read the Working With Your Doctor to Manage Rheumatoid Arthritis article > >

Rheumatoid nodules are often found at pressure points, including:

  • Hands
  • Fingers
  • Knuckles
  • Elbows

The nodules can also form on the vocal cords, causing hoarseness. Rheumatoid nodules may appear in the lungs, heart, and other internal organs.

Many people with RA have no pain or symptoms with the nodules. But some patients find the nodules painful. Sometimes rheumatoid nodules interfere with daily activities, put pressure on nerves, and limit movement. Rheumatoid nodules in areas such as the heart and lungs may affect organ function.

What are the causes of rheumatoid nodules?

Rheumatoid nodules usually occur in patients with severe RA. Nearly all RA patients with nodules test positive for rheumatoid factor. Studies show that when RA is linked with a positive rheumatoid factor test, it may indicate more aggressive disease.

Other factors may increase the chance of RA nodules. One study found that cigarette smoking increases nodules in patients with RA. Methotrexate, a commonly used RA drug, has also been linked to increased development of rheumatoid nodules.

Are there treatments for rheumatoid nodules?

Sometimes disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can reduce the size of rheumatoid nodules. But patients who take methotrexate may develop an increase in size and number of nodules. If nodules are thought to be a result of methotrexate treatment, a change in medication regimen may help; however, this decision must be carefully made on an individual basis.

Injections of glucocorticoids (steroids) may help shrink nodules. Sometimes surgery is necessary if rheumatoid nodules become infected or cause severe symptoms.

Seeing your doctor regularly is important to avoid serious problems with rheumatoid nodules.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on February 11, 2014
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

fish oil capsule
Article
senior woman holding green apple
Article
 
young women in yoga class
Video
Man with knee brace
Article
 
Lucille Ball
Slideshow
Hand bones X-ray
Article
 
prescription pills
Article
Woman massaging her neck
Quiz
 
woman roasting vegetables in oven
Slideshow
Woman rubbing shoulder
Slideshow
 
Working out with light weights
Video
arthritis
Article