What is a Rheumatoid Nodule?

A rheumatoid nodule is a lump formed under the skin of a person with rheumatoid arthritis. The nodules are commonly located at a pressure point in the body. Typically, the nodules form at pressure points such as the elbows, fingers, heels and knuckles. They can range in size. Some may be as small as a pencil eraser, while others can grow quite large and become very noticeable.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. With this disease, the immune system attacks healthy tissues inside the body. It causes inflammation in the lining of the joints and can equally affect tissues surrounding the joints. A rheumatoid nodule will generally appear near joints affected with this disease. It is generally a chronic, ongoing condition and may eventually lead to bone degeneration.
The most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are pain and swelling in the joints. Stiffness, which may be most dominant in the mornings, is also common. Unlike other types of arthritis, rheumatoid disease can cause fevers, fatigue, a loss of appetite and weight loss. As the disease progresses, a lump or bump may appear under the skin. This type of growth is known as a subcutaneous nodule.
A subcutaneous nodule is a growth appearing directly under the skin. In a patient with rheumatoid arthritis, the condition is known as a rheumatoid nodule. This type of growth can have different characteristics, with some moving freely and others remaining immobile. Generally, they are caused by inflammation or infection in the body, such is the case with rheumatoid arthritis. The nodules can also have a different color from the rest of the skin.
Many individuals with a rheumatoid nodule will not experience any additional symptoms than those common with rheumatoid arthritis. If the joint nodules are especially large, they may become painful. This may cause the onset of additional problems, such as limited movement and usage of the affected joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect organs in the body such as the lungs and heart. Nodules in these locations can lead to serious problems, such as heart complications and breathing problems.
Some individuals with a small rheumatoid nodule may be asymptomatic or without symptoms. For those requiring treatment, an anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to relieve pain and swelling. Corticosteroid medications can also be used for especially painful joints. Sometimes surgery may be needed to remove nodules that are either very painful or large. This may be especially beneficial if the growths are interfering with the ability to complete everyday activities.