The aim of this study was to elucidate signs of granulocyte activation by studying adhesion and phagocytosis receptors on peripheral blood granulocytes from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and to observe the effect of glucocorticoids. Analyses by flow cytometry showed elevation of the neutrophil and eosinophil expression of the alpha- and beta-chains of the beta2-integrin Mac-1 (CD11b/CD18) and of the CEA-gene family member 6 (CGM6, CD66b). Expression of the adhesion receptor antigens CD11a, CD29, CD49d, CD49f and CD44, and the Fcgamma receptors II and III, was unaffected. Treatment with low-dose prednisolone reduced the expression of CD11b on neutrophils and of CD11b, CD18 and CD66b on eosinophils to the same level as that found in healthy controls. Metyrapone treatment increased the surface expression of CD35 and CD49f on eosinophils, but did not affect surface expression on neutrophils. Activation of blood granulocytes may be important for the increased recruitment of neutrophils and eosinophils to the synovial cavity in RA. Treatment with low doses of glucocorticoids in RA normalizes the enhanced expression of the studied adhesion molecules in eosinophils but has minor impact on neutrophil activation. Endogenous glucocorticoid production seems to have minimal or no effect on the expression of adhesion and phagocytosis receptors on circulating granulocytes.