Felty's Syndrome

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

Felty's syndrome facts

  • Felty's syndrome is a complication of long-standing rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Patients with Felty's syndrome can have more infections than the average person and can develop leg ulcers.
  • The cause of Felty's syndrome is not known.
  • Felty's syndrome is diagnosed by the presence of three conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, an enlarged spleen, and an abnormally low white blood count.
  • Treatment of Felty's syndrome is not always required, but medications are used for serious manifestations.

What is Felty's syndrome?

Felty's syndrome is a complication of long-standing rheumatoid arthritis. Felty's syndrome is defined by the presence of three conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly), and an abnormally low white blood cell count. Felty's syndrome is uncommon. It affects less than 1% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

What causes Felty's syndrome?

The cause of Felty's syndrome is not known. Some patients with rheumatoid arthritis develop Felty's syndrome, but most do not. White blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. There seems to be an active bone marrow function in patients with Felty's syndrome, producing white cells, despite the low numbers of circulating white blood cells (neutropenia). White cells may be stored excessively in the spleen of a patient with Felty's syndrome. This is especially true in patients with Felty's syndrome that have antibodies against the particular type of white blood cells usually affected (cells called granulocytes or neutrophils).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/17/2016

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