Is Felty’s Syndrome?
Felty’s syndrome is a rare disorder that involves three
conditions. These conditions are rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a low white blood
cell count, and an enlarged spleen. The Arthritis Society of Canada reports
than 1 percent of people with RA have Felty’s syndrome.
Not much is known about the condition, but doctors consider
it a serious disorder. Some people don’t have any noticeable symptoms beyond
those associated with RA. Other people may display a number of symptoms,
- serious infections
- a fever
- weight loss
- discolored patches of skin
What Are the Symptoms of Felty’s
Sometimes, people who have Felty’s syndrome may not have any
symptoms. Other times, they may have specific symptoms that occur with the
syndrome, such as:
- eye discharge
- a burning feeling in the eyes
- weight loss
- joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformities
- a loss of appetite
- general discomfort
- pale coloring to skin
Additional symptoms may include ulcers, discolored areas on
the skin, and an enlarged liver. These symptoms vary from case to case.
Causes Felty’s Syndrome?
The cause of Felty’s syndrome is unknown, but doctors
believe it’s a genetic condition. It’s possible that the affected individuals
need only one abnormal gene to develop the disease. The National
Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) notes that Felty’s syndrome may be an
Although people who’ve had RA for a long time are at greater
risk for Felty’s syndrome, RA isn’t always the cause of the disorder.
Is at Risk for Felty’s Syndrome?
Felty’s syndrome may be more common in people with long-term
RA. Other possible risk factors may include:
- having a positive test result for the HLA-DR4
- having inflammation of tissues lining the joints
- testing positive for rheumatoid factor, which is
an antibody used to diagnose RA
- having RA symptoms outside of the joints
- being Caucasian
- being older than age 50
According to the Arthritis
Society of Canada, women are three times more likely than men to develop
Is Felty’s Syndrome Diagnosed?
Your doctor will begin with a physical examination. The
physical exam may reveal whether you have a swollen liver, spleen, or lymph
nodes. Your joints may show signs of RA, such as swelling, redness, and warmth.
Your doctor may also order an abdominal ultrasound and blood work, including a
complete blood count (CBC).
A CBC may reveal that your white blood cell count is low.
The abdominal ultrasound may reveal the presence of a swollen spleen. Having a
low white blood cell count, swollen spleen, and RA usually indicates that you
have Felty’s syndrome.
Are the Treatment Options for Felty’s Syndrome?
Most people diagnosed with Felty’s syndrome are already
receiving treatment for RA. Having Felty’s syndrome may require additional
medications. Your doctor may prescribe methotrexate, which is the most
effective form of treatment for many of the symptoms. Some people may also
benefit from having their spleen surgically removed.
If you experience recurring infections, following these tips
can help reduce the amount of infections you experience:
- Try to avoid injuries.
- Get a yearly flu shot.
- Avoid crowded places during flu season.
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
While there’s no cure for Felty’s syndrome, treating your RA
can only help. Individuals who have their spleen removed may experience fewer symptoms,
though the long-time benefit of this surgery is unknown, according to the NORD. However,
people who have Felty’s syndrome are prone to recurring infections ranging from
mild to severe.
Being vigilant about your health by following your doctor’s
course of treatment and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can decrease your
symptoms. Taking care of your immune system by avoiding those with the flu and
getting a yearly flu shot can also reduce the amount of infections you