Skin changes when you have arthritis

Millions of people around the world are affected by arthritis. This chronic disease doesn’t only affect joints and other internal organs of our body by increasing the risk for other diseases. It can affect your skin as well. Skin changes due to arthritis are either induced by disease itself or by medications that are used to treat it. Throughout this article, you will get to see how arthritis is associated with skin changes.

Wounds that don’t heal

Noticing minor skin lesions that come and go usually doesn’t indicate presence of some severe problem. However, if you have a wound that doesn’t heal after month or even longer and is accompanied by symptoms like bleeding, pain, and infection, then it could be a sign of a serious problem. In most cases, wounds that don’t heal indicate skin cancer.

Anyone can get skin cancer, but people who take TNF Inhibitors are at a greater risk of developing this disease. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases published results of the study which discovered that TNF Inhibitors increased risk of skin cancer by 45%.

Sun sensitivity

Excessive sun exposure can make a significant damage on your skin and result with a wide array of skin conditions. But, if you notice that your skin has become even more sensitive lately the underlying cause could be photosensitivity due to medications you take to relieve arthritis pain.

Arthritis medications that develop photosensitivity usually include non-steroidal inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, methotrexate, tricyclic antidepressants, and some antibiotics. Furthermore, increased sun sensitivity can also be an early sign of lupus.

If you start experiencing increased sun sensitivity, you should consult your healthcare provider. Furthermore, to make sure your skin doesn’t get damaged, you should invest in high-quality sunscreen which will protect your skin and skin cells from sun’s damaging UV rays.

Cold and discolored fingers and toes

When fingers and toes have a bluish color, particularly when you’re cold or under stress, it could be a sign of Raynaud’s syndrome. This syndrome usually affects women more likely than men. Raynaud’s syndrome causes your fingers and toes to feel numb and cold, but during the “attack”, your skin usually turns white at the beginning. Bluish tint occurs when blood vessels in your fingers and toes constrict.

If you notice symptoms associated with Raynaud’s disease, you should contact your healthcare provider. While this condition can occur on its own, in some cases it indicates underlying medical cause such as schleroderma and lupus.

Sores and purple spots

Sores and purplish lesions on your skin usually indicate presence of vasculitis. It is defined as an inflammation of your blood vessels which causes changes in walls of blood vessels and leads to organ and tissue damage. Unfortunately, scientists still haven’t discovered the exact cause of this disease. But scientists do believe that genetic makeup and person’s immunity plays a major role.

Besides sores and purplish spots, vasculitis is also indicated by headache, fever, fatigue etc.


Noticing bruises after you suffer a hit into your leg or arm is a perfectly natural thing. But, when large bruises start appearing and you don’t even know where you got them or if a minor bump results with a major bruise, you should definitely see your doctor.

Excessive bruising in people with arthritis is linked with intake of corticosteroids which weaken capillaries, but also with biologics and methotrexate. In some cases, the inflammatory nature of arthritis can cause a low platelet count which leads to blood clotting and excessive bleeding.

Purple and red lines under the skin

Purple and red lines under the skin indicate dilated blood vessels. When your blood vessels are dilated, particularly around your nails or on your face, they usually represent scleroderma or dermatomyositis.

Reacting as soon as you notice these symptoms can improve your chances of treating these changes in the skin.

Itchy and scaly rashes

Itchy and scale rashes along with crumbling nails indicate psoriasis. This skin condition coexists with arthritis in most cases. In fact, about 30% of patients with psoriasis develop arthritis as well. The most common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include:

  • Painful and swollen joints
  • Itchy and scaly skin
  • Rash
  • Stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Eye problems.

It’s important to bear in mind that not every rash is associated with this type of arthritis. For example, red and purplish rash that is located on the cheeks is linked with lupus.

Skin changes in people with rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis. The inflammatory nature of this disease, as well as medications, can cause some skin changes. For example:

  • Rheumatoid nodules – are very common. In fact, 1 in 5 people with RA gets rheumatoid nodules which are defined as hard lumps of tissue that vary in size. They usually develop under the skin of bony areas like elbows, fingers, and ankles.
  • Skin rash and ulcers – linked with vasculitis. This occurrence isn’t quite common. Only 1 in 100 people with RA have vasculitis.
  • Skin rash due to medications.


Although different types of arthritis are linked with joint pain and comorbidity with other chronic diseases, they can also affect your skin. Your skin suffers due to inflammatory effects of arthritis and medications you use to alleviate the pain. It is recommended to consult your healthcare provider as soon as you notice some skin changes.

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All information published on this website about health, diagnosis process, and remedies are for informational purposes only. This website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease and is not meant to be a substitute or replacement for any medical treatment. Please visit healthcare professionals for your specific health concerns.

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