Rheumatoid arthritis is common inflammatory condition but it can do damage beyond just affecting the joints. Learn how the condition affects the health of your lungs.
All of us are aware of the fact that rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease, primarily affects the joints but not many people know that it can affect your lungs as well. Yes, you read it right rheumatoid arthritis may have significant effects on the lungs. People of all ages can develop this condition but men who are suffering from active rheumatoid arthritis and have a history of smoking are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis related lung disease.
Effects of rheumatoid arthritis on lungs
Scarring of lung tissue
You will be surprised to know that rheumatoid arthritis can cause scarring of lung tissue and conditions such as interstitial lung disease that make breathing difficult and prevent adequate oxygen from reaching the bloodstream. It has been reported that interstitial lung disease occurs in about 3 percent to 5 percent of rheumatoid patients.
Interstitial lung disease may cause:
- Dyspnea (breathlessness)
- Dry cough
- Chest pain
- Clubbed fingernails
Scarring is usually irreversible, and symptoms are typically progressive. Scarring can also occur in the connective tissue of the air sacs of the lungs, leading to a condition called pulmonary fibrosis. Symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis include chronic dry cough, shortness of breath, weariness, weakness, loss of appetite and weight loss.
Apart from these, scarring of the small airways in the lungs could also occur due to arthritis medications leading to breathing problems.
Rheumatoid arthritis may also result in rheumatoid nodules, or lumps that most commonly occur under the skin around the painful joints. Surprisingly, such nodules can also develop in the lungs. Usually people don’t experience any symptoms but cough, chest pain and coughing up blood may occur.
One of the common effects of Rheumatoid arthritis on lungs is pleural effusion or fluid in the lungs which occurs as a result of inflammation. Just like rheumatoid nodules, this condition shows no symptoms but may cause breathing problem, fever and shortness of breath.
You can also blame rheumatoid arthritis for causing airway complications. Upper airway obstruction may lead to pulmonary nodules. It has also been reported that bronchiectasis, a condition in which the airways dilate and become scarred, may occur in as many as 10 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients.
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