Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) does not only take its toll on the joints, it also has an impact on the nearby organs and tissues. Indeed, this condition can have an all-encompassing effect on the body, including the heart, eyes, and lungs. Ultimately, along with joints, the lungs and heart are the two most commonly impaired organs with rheumatoid arthritis.
Even though medical experts are unsure as to why rheumatoid arthritis also affects other organs, RA-related lung problems can potentially be life-threatening.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Interstitial Lung Disease
Interstitial lung disease brought on by rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most prevalent occurrences among patients with rheumatoid arthritis. While its detection is not exactly clear-cut, it is evident when the lungs incur inflammation and scarring.
Research findings regarding this comorbidity include:
- Males appear to run a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis-related lung disease. Smokers are at a higher risk of developing the condition. However, those who do not smoke may also develop rheumatoid arthritis-related interstitial lung disease.
- Interstitial lung disease can be asymptomatic. However, if patients exhibit symptoms, symptoms include a dry cough and shortness of breath.
- Rheumatoid arthritis-related interstitial lung disease treatment can be taxing. Researchers are still hard at work to find more effective therapies. Presently, the main medications in use to treat a comorbidity of rheumatoid arthritis and interstitial lung disease are azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, and cyclosporine.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Pulmonary Fibrosis
Rheumatoid arthritis inflammation may also result in pulmonary fibrosis, which refers to serious, lifelong scarring in the lungs. The air sacs of the lungs are the tissues that incur scarring, therefore, the hallmark symptom of this condition is trouble breathing. Beginning oxygen therapy may be effective in addressing shortness of breath. However, it cannot improve the permanent scarring of the lungs.
The unfortunate part is that a medication that treats rheumatoid arthritis known as methotrexate has been linked to an increased risk of pulmonary fibrosis in some patients. If you are on methotrexate, your physician needs to closely and regularly screen your respiratory system function.
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