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Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease which causes inflammation in the joints, leading to pain and joint deformity.  Rheumatoid vasculitis (RV) is a serious complication of rheumatoid arthritis.

What is Rheumatoid Vasculitis?

The word 'vasculitis' means that blood vessels are inflamed, just as RV foot diagramappendicitis indicates the appendix is inflamed and arthritis that the joints are inflamed. The consequences of vasculitis depend on the size, site and number of blood vessels involved. When small or medium-sized arteries are involved they can become blocked and this can result in infarction (death) of the tissue the blood vessel supplies.  In summary:
  • RV causes inflammation of the blood vessels
  • It commonly affects the skin, causing rash and ulcers, and the nerves, causing loss of sensation (neuropathy)
  • RV is reported to be more common in men with rheumatoid arthritis (1 in 9 men in one study) than in women (1 in 38 women in one study)
  • It appears to be becoming much rarer over the last few decades
  • The active vasculitis associated with rheumatoid disease occurs in about 1% of the patient population with rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms

The symptoms of RV will depend upon the part of the body affected. 

  • Skin rashes and ulcers are a common problemRV foot image
  • When nerves are affected this usually causes numbness or tingling and "pins and needles"
  • Muscle weakness may also develop. 
  • In addition to the skin and peripheral nervous system, the manifestations of RV can involve arteries of the fingers and toes causing digital ischemia, and eyes with scleritis.

Neuropathy describes damage to peripheral nerves which could just mean numbness (as mentioned previously) but could also be a condition called mononeuritis multiplex, where specific nerves are damaged due to lack of blood supply, which can present with symptoms including foot drop and wrist drop (i.e. difficulty lifting the foot or wrist).

People with a history of joint-destructive rheumatoid arthritis are at an increased risk of infection. So, keeping a close eye on your foot health, using a simple foot mirror, is very important.

To help with your daily foot checking routine, and find products to help your feet if you suffer from any form of arthritis in your feet, please visit our online shop.
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