Although we primarily think of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as a disease that affects joints, it can damage tissue throughout the body. Rheumatoid lung disease refers to a collection of lung disorders associated with RA.
Most at risk for rheumatoid lung diseases are men between 50 and 70 with active RA, and a history of smoking.
Interstitial Lung Disease
The most serious of the rheumatoid lung diseases is rheumatoid arthritis-associated interstitial lung disease (RA-ILD). In this disease, lung tissue becomes inflamed and scarred.
RA-ILD may cause shortness of breath, either at rest or after exertion, and a dry cough. However, it may cause no symptoms at all.
Untreated, RA-ILD, like any form of interstitial lung disease, can lead to a series of life-threatening complications, including respiratory failure.
RA can cause lumps to form throughout the body, including in the lungs. Lung nodules usually cause no symptoms. However, if a nodules ruptures, it can cause a collapsed lung.
The pleura is the lining of the lungs. Pleural disease, in which the pleura becomes inflamed, occurs in up to 70% of people with RA, though less than 5% experience symptoms.
With pleurisy, the lung lining becomes inflamed, causing chest pain and difficulty breathing.
Inflammation may also cause a buildup of fluid between layers of lung lining. This pleural effusion can cause shortness of breath, fever, and a collapsed lung.
Certainly, anyone who smokes cigarettes should quit. Cigarette smoke irritates lung tissue, leading to a variety of medical problems, not just those associated with RA.
A person with RA should make sure their health provider listens to their lungs and monitors their breathing at every medical visit. Because so many of the problems associated with rheumatoid lung disease have no symptoms, early detection is especially important, and makes problems easier to treat.
Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ, specializes in lung issues. Headed by leading lung specialist Dr. Avtar Parhar, our program is the most highly advanced pulmonary rehabilitation program in Monmouth County. At Laurel Bay, we focus on restorative and preventive care for those who suffer with respiratory disease.
Or better yet, come see for yourself. Contact us to schedule a tour by clicking here or by calling (372) 787-8100.