Felty’s Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Felty’s syndrome is a rare condition with three conditions involved. These conditions include rheumatoid arthritis (RA), low levels of white blood cells and an enlarged spleen. Reports of the Arthritis Association of Canada that less than 1 percent of RA patients have Felty’s syndrome. (1)

Little is known about the disease, but physicians regard it as a serious condition. Some individuals do not experience any apparent symptoms other than those associated with RA. Others can have several symptoms, such as:

  • a fever
  • fatigue
  • serious infections
  • weight loss
  • discolored patches of skin

What Are the Symptoms of Felty’s Syndrome?

In some cases, people with Felty’s syndrome may show no symptoms. In other cases, they may present with specific symptoms that arise with the syndrome, such as:

  • loss of appetite
  • general discomfort
  • eye discharge
  • a sensation of burning in eyes.
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and deformities
  • infections
  • pale coloring to skin

Other symptoms can include ulcers, discoloured areas on the skin and hypertrophy of the liver. These symptoms are different in each case.

What Causes Felty’s Syndrome?

The cause of Felty’s syndrome is unknown, but physicians believe it is a genetic disease. Affected persons may require only one abnormal gene to develop the disease. The National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) notes that Felty’s syndrome can be an auto-immune disease.

While people who have had RA for an extended period of time are more at risk for Felty’s syndrome, RA is not always the cause of the disorder. (2)

Who Is at Risk for Felty’s Syndrome?

Felty’s syndrome may be more frequent in individuals with long-term RA. Additional risk factors include the following:

  • have a positive test result for the test HLA-DR4 gene
  • inflamed tissues lining the joints.
  • positive test for rheumatoid factor, which is an antibody used in the diagnosis of RA.
  • showing symptoms of RA outside the joints.
  • being Caucasian
  • have more than 50 years.

As per the Arthritis Society of Canada, Females are three times more likely than males to develop Felty’s syndrome.

How Is Felty’s Syndrome Diagnosed?

Your physician will start with a physical exam. Physical examination can indicate if your liver, spleen or lymph nodes are swollen. There may be signs of RA in your joints, such as swelling, redness and warmth. Your physician may also order an abdominal ultrasound and blood tests, including a full blood count (CBC).

An CBC can show that your white blood count is low. Abdominal ultrasonography may indicate the presence of an inflated spleen. Having low white blood cells, a swollen spleen and RA generally indicates that you have Felty’s syndrome.

What Are the Treatment Options for Felty’s Syndrome?

The majority of people diagnosed with Felty’s syndrome are already receiving treatment for RA. Felty’s syndrome can require additional medicines. Methotrexate, which is the most effective treatment for many symptoms, can be prescribed by your doctor. Some individuals may also receive surgical removal of the spleen.

If you have recurrent infections, follow these tips to minimize the number of infections you encounter:

  • See if you can avoid the injuries.
  • Take an annual flu shot.
  • Stay away from crowded areas during influenza season.
  • You should wash your hands.

Populations affected by falty’s syndrome?

An estimated 1-3% of all patients with rheumatoid arthritis suffer from Felty’s syndrome. That’s a significant number, but most of those are undiagnosed. The disease is approximately three times more common among females than males. Felty’s syndrome is not as common in individuals of African descent as it is in Caucasian populations. The disorder usually occurs in people between the ages of 50 and 70.

Long Term Outlook?

Although there is no cure for Felty’s syndrome, treatment of your RA will only help. People whose spleen has been removed may be less symptomatic, but the long-term benefits of this procedure are unknown. based on the NORD. However, individuals with Felty’s syndrome are subject to recurrent infections ranging from mild to serious.

Paying attention to your health by following your doctor’s treatment and maintaining a healthy lifestyle may reduce your symptoms. Taking care of your immune system by preventing people with influenza and getting vaccinated every year can also reduce the number of infections you experience.

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