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Health Questions

Felty syndrome

Definition

Felty syndrome is a rare disorder that involves rheumatoid arthritis, a swollen spleen, decreased white blood cell count, and repeated infections.

Causes

The cause of Felty syndrome is unknown. It is more common in people who have had rheumatoid arthritis for a long time. People with this syndrome are at risk of infection because they have a low white blood cell count.

Symptoms

  • General feeling of discomfort (malaise)
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Pale-looking skin
  • Joint swelling, stiffness, pain, and deformity
  • Recurrent infections
  • Eye burning or discharge

Exams and Tests

A physical examination will show:

  • Swollen spleen
  • Joints that show signs of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Possibly swollen liver and lymph nodes

A complete blood count ( CBC) may show decreased number of white blood cells called neutrophils.

An abdominal ultrasound may confirm a swollen spleen.

Treatment

Persons with this syndrome are usually already receiving treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. They may need other medicines to suppress their immune system.

Some people benefit from removal of the spleen (splenectomy).

Outlook (Prognosis)

Rheumatoid arthritis is likely to get worse.

Possible Complications

You may have infections that keep returning.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of this disorder.

Prevention

There is no known prevention.

References

Pinals RS. Felty's syndrome. In: Firestein GS, Budd RC, Harris Jr. ED, McInnes IB, Ruddy S, eds. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2008: chap 68.


Review Date: 6/28/2011
Reviewed By: Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A., Chief, Division of Rheumatology, St. Vincent’s Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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