Rheumatoid vasculitis is inflammation in blood vessels caused by rheumatoid arthritis, according to Cleveland Clinic. The inflammation causes weakening in the blood vessels and may cause them to either get larger or narrow. In some cases, the vessels become so narrow that blood flow stops.
Vasculitis most often affects those who have had severe disease for an extended period of time. A number of swollen and painful joints, rheumatoid nodules and blood with a high concentration of rheumatoid factor also increase the risk of vasculitis, notes Cleveland Clinic. Rheumatoid vasculitis is rare, and effectively treating arthritis is thought to decrease the risk of the complication.
Rheumatoid vasculitis often affects the vessels that carry blood to the skin, nerves and internal organs, says Cleveland Clinic. When the skin is involved, common symptoms include pitting on the fingertips, painful sores or redness around the fingernails. A red rash and skin ulcers sometimes occur when the rheumatoid vasculitis affects larger arteries and veins. Vasculitis affecting the nerves can cause numbness, tingling, loss of sensation and weakness. When the condition affects larger arteries, the patient faces an increased risk of gangrene, stomach pain, heart attack and stroke.
Rheumatoid vasculitis affecting the skin is not generally serious and is often treated with an antibiotic cream and pain relievers, states Cleveland Clinic. Better management of the arthritis may also be part of the treatment plan. Vasculitis affecting nerves and large arteries is a more serious condition and is more difficult to treat.