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What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Lung?

Rheumatoid arthritis of the lung may cause chest pain and shortness of breath.
A human respiratory system.
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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
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Rheumatoid arthritis of the lung is a complication experienced by approximately 25 percent of all sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the joints and tissues. When rheumatoid arthritis spreads to the lung tissue, it can result in inflammation, fluid buildup, nodule formation, scarring, and hypertension. Some sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis of the lung may experience a range of symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, or even lung collapse, while others may have no symptoms. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis-derived lung issues may center upon the lungs themselves or may be directed at the underlying disease causing those issues.

There are a number of different ways in which rheumatoid arthritis of the lung can manifest itself. It can cause the lung tissue to become inflamed, a condition commonly known as pleurisy. Often, this pleurisy is accompanied by pleural effusion, or the buildup of fluid within the tissue of the lungs. In some cases, scars and small growths known as nodules may form on the lungs. Additionally, the blood pressure in the lungs’ arteries may increase abnormally, a condition known as pulmonary hypertension.

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The number and severity of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis of the lung can vary widely from person to person. Sufferers can experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, coughing, weakness, fatigue, and fever. Those with nodule development may experience lung collapse. In some instances, these symptoms may be the first indication that an individual has rheumatoid arthritis. Conversely, some cases of rheumatoid arthritis of the lung present no symptoms, and as a consequence an individual may be unaware that his rheumatoid arthritis has begun to affect his lungs or even that he has the disease at all.

Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis of the lung can be direct or indirect, depending on the ways in which the condition has manifested itself. For instance, individuals with fluid buildup in the lungs may undergo a procedure to drain that fluid. Often, however, treatment of rheumatoid arthritis-derived lung issues is directed at the underlying disease causing the issues. While there is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are a number of medications which can be used to control the disease. Most common among these are anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids, which are useful in managing joint swelling, and immunosuppressants, which curb the immune system to prevent it from attacking the joints and tissues.

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