Rheumatoid arthritis and lung disease are both chronic health conditions which cause inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body mistakenly attacks its own tissues. Different from osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling which can lead to bone erosion and deformity. A common misconception about rheumatoid arthritis is that it only affects the joints. In fact, because rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder, RA can affect the entire body. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause damage to the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood vessels and joints. If you have questions about how does rheumatoid arthritis affect lung disease, here’s what you need to know.
Rheumatoid Arthritis Information
Even though many people with rheumatoid arthritis first feel symptoms in their small joints, the inflammation caused by RA will often spread from the hands and wrists to the knees, ankles, elbows, hips and shoulders. However, it’s estimated that 40 percent of people with RA also experience signs and symptoms in other parts of their body, such as in the skin, eyes, heart, kidneys, salivary glands, nerve tissues, bone marrow, blood vessels and lungs.
Even though doctors aren’t sure what causes RA, a genetic component appears likely. However, having RA genes doesn’t actually cause RA. Instead, having the RA gene makes you more susceptible to environmental factors, such as infection with certain viruses and bacteria, which may trigger the disease to activate.
What are the risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis?
There are some factors that could increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Here’s what you need to know:
- RA can occur at any age, but many cases occur after the age of 40.
- If you have a family member with RA, your chances for developing RA are greater.
- Women are more likely to develop RA than men, although men can develop RA, too.
- Smoking increases the risk of developing RA, and smoking is related to greater disease severity.
What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
- Weight Loss
- Tender, warm, swollen joints
- Joint stiffness that is usually worse in the mornings and after inactivity
How does rheumatoid arthritis affect lung disease?
Because rheumatoid arthritis causes whole-body inflammation, it can affect your tissues and organs. RA inflammation can reach the lungs, causing scarring.
Rheumatoid arthritis-associated interstitial lung disease, or RA-ILD, occurs when lung tissue becomes inflamed and scarred, which results in difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. In the case of RA-ILD, the scarring is caused when the over-active immune system attacks the lungs.
The inflammation resulting from RA-ILD can lead to pulmonary fibrosis—the permanent scarring of respiratory tissues. Interstitial lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis are both progressive lung diseases.
How can I manage rheumatoid arthritis and prevent lung disease?
Smoking and being overweight can make RA and lung disease worse. If you currently smoke, talk to your doctor about making a plan to quit smoking. If you’re overweight, discuss diet and exercise options to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
It’s important to see your primary care physician, rheumatologist and pulmonologist regularly even if you’re feeling well. Identifying and treating rheumatoid arthritis and pulmonary conditions as soon as possible is essential to helping you feel better and stay healthy. Talk with your doctors about your treatment options, such as medications, herbal supplements, vitamins and minerals, lifestyle modifications and alternative therapies. Discuss how medications to treat rheumatoid arthritis can help or interact with medications to treat lung disease. If you have questions or concerns, it’s important to discuss them with your doctors.
Where can I go to learn more about alternative treatments?
The Lung Institute offers stem cell treatment for many major pulmonary conditions, including COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis, interstitial lung disease and pneumoconiosis. The Lung Institute only uses autologous stem cells or stem cells derived from the patient’s own body through blood or bone marrow tissue. We understand how challenging living with and understanding how does rheumatoid arthritis affect lung disease can be, so we’re here to help you stay informed and answer your questions. If you or a loved one has a chronic lung disease and would like more information about stem cell therapy, feel free to contact us at (800) 729-3065.