Rheumatoid lung disease

Definition

Rheumatoid lung disease is a group of lung problems related to rheumatoid arthritis. The condition can include:

Causes

Lung problems are common in rheumatoid arthritis. They often cause no symptoms.

The cause of lung disease associated with rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. Sometimes, the medicines used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, especially methotrexate, may result in lung disease.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include any of the following:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical examination and ask about your symptoms.

The provider may hear crackles (rales) when listening to the lungs with a stethoscope. Or, there may be decreased breath sounds, wheezing, a rubbing sound, or normal breath sounds. When listening to the heart, there may be abnormal heart sounds. 

The following tests may show signs of rheumatoid lung disease:

Treatment

Many people with this condition have no symptoms. Treatment is aimed at the health problems causing the lung problem and the complications caused by the disorder. Corticosteroids or other medicines that suppress the immune system are sometimes useful.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Outcome is related to the underlying disorder and the type and severity of lung disease. In severe cases, lung transplantation can be considered. This is more common in cases of bronchiolitis obliterans, pulmonary fibrosis, or pulmonary hypertension.

Possible Complications

Rheumatoid lung disease may lead to:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider right away if you have rheumatoid arthritis and you develop unexplained breathing difficulties.


Review Date: 5/21/2017
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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