Cutaneous manifestations are frequent and diverse among patients with rheumatoid arthritis and impact their quality of life: a cross-sectional study in a cohort of patients with recent-onset disease

Clin Rheumatol. 2021 Sep;40(9):3581-3590. doi: 10.1007/s10067-021-05664-0. Epub 2021 Mar 2.


Introduction/objectives: Cutaneous involvement is often overlooked in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). We described cutaneous findings in outpatients attending a recent-onset cohort and identified factors associated with skin involvement and reduced (R) dermatological quality of life (DQoL).

Methods: Skin and rheumatological examinations were performed in 122 patients. DQoL was assessed through the Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI). Skin findings were classified as RA-specific and RA-nonspecific. Multiple regression analysis identified factors associated to skin involvement and RDQoL (DLQI score > 1).

Results: Patients were middle-aged females (91%), with a 1-year mean disease activity score in 28 joints as 2.0 (interquartile range: 1.5-2.6). There were 94 (77%) patients in whom at least one cutaneous finding was observed: 17 (13.1%) had RA-specific findings (all were rheumatoid nodules) and 91 (96.8%) had at least one RA-nonspecific finding, further classified into skin diseases (35.2%), hair diseases (20.9%), and skin-related signs (76.9%, among whom 94.3% had xerosis). Age (odds ratio [OR]: 1.054, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.015-1.094) and skin-health concerns (OR: 5.657, 95% CI: 1.771-18.070) were associated with cutaneous involvement, whereas increased age and DLQI score were associated with a higher number of skin findings/patient. There were 29 patients (24.2%) with RDQoL, which were associated with the Short Form-36 emotional component (OR: 0.955, 95% CI: 0.923-0.988) and the number of skin findings/patient (OR 2.873, 95% CI 1.723-4.791). Pruritus and hair diseases were the individual categories associated with RDQoL.

Conclusions: Cutaneous manifestations are frequent in RA patients and have the potential to impact the emotional component of health-related quality of life. Key Points • Up to 77% of the RA patients with substantial follow-up, from a recent-onset disease cohort, had cutaneous manifestations; these were primarily RA-nonspecific findings, whereas 13.1% had RA-specific findings. • Skin-health concerns and age were associated with cutaneous involvement; meanwhile, increased age and Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) score were associated with a higher number of cutaneous findings/patient. • Reduced dermatological quality of life (RDQoL) was documented in one in four patients and was associated with the SF-36 emotional component and the number of cutaneous findings/patient.

Keywords: Health-related quality of life; Rheumatoid arthritis; Skin diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pruritus
  • Quality of Life
  • Skin Diseases* / epidemiology