What is a Rheumatoid Nodule?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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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.


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Post 1

My brother has rheumatoid arthritis and has developed nodules on his fingers, knuckles and even on his elbows.

This has become very frustrating for him because he loves to spend a lot of time outdoors. He has horses that he works with almost every day, and can spend all day inside and outside the barn grooming, training and riding his horses.

The nodules on his hands makes working with the brushes, reigns, and saddle straps much harder. He can still get done what he needs to, but it takes him longer and he is often in pain while he is doing it.

Even with these nodules on his fingers, I can't see him giving up what he loves to do. It is what motivates him to get up and get going in the morning. It would be easy to let the symptoms of his arthritis keep him inside, but he refuses to let it get the best of him.

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