How Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect Lungs?

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The right side of the heart pumps blood (containing low in oxygen) through the lungs to take oxygen! And then the blood rich in oxygen back to the heart through the left side of the heart, which then will be pumped throughout the body.


The complication from pulmonary hypertension can be serious. The high blood pressure inside arteries that carry blood from heart to the lungs can make heart (especially for the right side of the heart) work harder. And overtime this may lead to heart failure!

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and scleroderma are some autoimmune disorders that can cause pulmonary hypertension. Many times, pulmonary hypertension in people with RA also occurs due to interstitial lung disease.

Other possible causes include obstructive sleep apnea, another lungs disease (like pulmonary fibrosis), problems within the heart (like heart valve disease), blood clots in the lungs, heart abnormality at birth, HIV infection, or side effects of certain medications.

Nodules (lumps in the lungs)

Poorly-controlled RA may cause nodules (little spots) in the lungs. These nodules can form in other areas of the body such as in the skin.

Rheumatoid nodules in the lung are often confused with other nodules triggered by other causes such as infection or cancer. Doctor may need to take a biopsy procedure to make the diagnosis.

Lung nodules related to RA is usually non-cancerous condition and don’t carry the risk of lung cancer. Typically, they don’t cause any symptom. In a few cases, they may rapture and cause a collapsed lung. They also can trigger pleural effusion.


Other RA-related lung diseases

  1. Fibrobullous disease. It is a condition of when there are some small cysts, typically at the top of the lung. These cysts can impair the function of the lungs.
  2. There is a chance for RA to affect the small bronchial tubes called bronchioles, and causing a lung problem called rheumatoid bronchiolitis.
  3. Out of control of RA inflammation could pose the risk of respiratory infections, too.

The way of how RA affects the lungs can be complex. Even some RA treatments could pose the risk of lung problems, too.

Doctors need to be careful in dealing with lung problems related to RA. They also need to find the cause clearly, whether the complication is a consequence of RA alone, side effect of RA treatment, or caused by other causes such as infection!

But overall, experts agree that controlling the inflammation of RA is so crucial to reduce the risk of the complications. To make sure that the disease is well controlled, it’s suggested to become educated about the complications of the disease and how to lower the risk of these complications.

Even some lifestyle approaches such as exercise, stress management, and diet may help for coping. It’s also important to avoid smoking and take regular check-ups! For more information about these home remedies, see this post!

Fortunately, with new treatment, RA is now able to be controlled better. Even some treatments can help make the disease go into remission for months or years.


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