Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Lungs What Is It
As discussed in previous articles, rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease whereby your bodies own protective white blood cells turn against you and start attacking your body typically focusing on the synovial fluid around your joints. This leads to inflammation, pain and ultimately many problems with your joints.
The reality however is that rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that can affect almost any organ in your body. Lung disease is the second largest reason for death from rheumatoid arthritis second only to heart disease
Indeed, in some of the most recent studies, lung disease was the only organ issue found to have actively increased in frequency despite advance in the overall treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
So while modern medicines and particularly alternative therapies have given many rheumatoid arthritis sufferers a new lease of life, an increasing number are are now finding their activities curtailed by trouble breathing.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, the figure for people developing lung disease from rheumatoid arthritis is as high as 10%.
Given how prevalent rheumatoid arthritis is around the world, that is a lot of sufferers.
Rheumatoid Arthritis in the lungs can present itself in one of four key ways
1) Scarring or Interstitial Lung Disease.
This is known as Interstitial lung disease and is both the most common and most deadly of the respiratory problems that can occur with rheumatoid arthritis.
2) Lung Nodules.
4) Pleural Disease
The Effects Of Ra On The Lungs
The lungs can be affected in RA through the RA itself, or as an effect from treatment given for RA.
There are three situations in which the lung can be adversely affected in people with rheumatoid arthritis:
This article aims to give an overview of these three ways in which the lungs can be affected.
Can A Flare Up Of Ra Cause Chronic Fatigue
Fatigue may not be preceded by physical activity or exertion, and it may occur in between or during flare-up episodes of RA. Fatigue can be a serious and debilitating symptom of rheumatoid arthritis. Those who suffer from chronic fatigue report that it makes them feel so physically exhausted that everyday tasks of life become a burden.
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Limit Exposure To Pesticides Airborne Chemicals And Air Pollution
There seems to be a tight connection between the lungs and joints in RA, so it’s very important to eliminate inhalants, such as pesticides, airborne chemicals, and air pollution, as much as possible. Most of the research has focused on the detrimental effects of cigarette smoking on both the joints and lungs, but it makes sense that the others are likely unhealthy as well, says Sparks.
What Foods Are Bad For Rheumatoid Arthritis
Some foods are bad for people with RA, and some foods are good for them.
A diet high in fiber can help reduce fatigue and joint pain caused by inflammation.
For people with RA who need to lose weight because theyre overweight or obese , low-calorie, low-fat diets may be helpful.
But if this type of food intake becomes too restrictive it could lead to nutrient deficiencies that worsen the symptoms of arthritis! Its important to consult a nutritionist before starting any drastic changes like these.
Below we mention some of these foods that are bad for RA, and the foods which can be good for it.
The following is a list of some unhealthy or unhelpful things to consume with rheumatoid arthritis:
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Types Of Pulmonary Involvement
Respiratory symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis can be due to a variety of conditions that affect the parenchyma, pleura, airways or vasculature . Complications may arise directly from rheumatoid arthritis involvement or may occur secondary to immune-modulating medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The majority of respiratory manifestations occur within the first 5years of disease . Respiratory symptoms may precede onset of articular symptoms in 1020% of cases . However, they may be masked by poor functional status from joint disease or chronic inflammation.
Pulmonary manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Lungs
‘Rheumatoid Arthritis Is More Than A Joint Disease’
The lungs may seem an unusual area to be attacked by Rheumatoid Arthritis after all RA is a disease known to attack joints.
However, lung disease is the 2nd most common cause of death from Rheumatoid Arthritis so here we review everything you need to know about Rheumatoid Arthritis in the lungs.
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Diagnosing Ra And Pulmonary Fibrosis
Typically, pulmonary fibrosis and related lung problems develop in people who have lived with RA for several years. This means that doctors usually diagnose RA before pulmonary fibrosis.
However, a study in the journal European Respiratory Review reported that 10 to 20 percent of people experienced symptoms of respiratory problems before they developed typical RA symptoms.
Treatments For Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Lungs
Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in the lungs varies according to type of damage that has been done. It is important to emphasize that, like all treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, there is no cure.
The focus then is around maintaining a good quality of life and stopping the disease from progressing. Well look individually at how each variant of lung disease can be treated
Scarring or Interstitial Lung Disease.
This is by far the most common . There are four basic treatment options available for treating scarring of the lung tissue.
There is some debate as to how successful these are nowadays and a recent study in 2015has suggested that medications that try to act as an immunosuppressant for rheumatoid arthritis in the lungs actually have very little effect for the risk involved.
2) Pulmonary Rehabilitation.
This involves a mix of education and exercise. The education is around methods of managing being short of breath and the exercises are designed to slowly increase their lung capacity, although these are less popular as rheumatoid arthritis sufferers often have joint pain as well that stops them from exercising.
3) Oxygen Therapy.
A face mask leading to an oxygen tank can supply special air that contains more oxygen than normal. This can be either a temporary measure like using an asthma inhaler or permanent oxygen supplied via a nasal cannula.
4) Lung Transplant.
Small Lung Nodules.
Pleural Disease .
Small Airway Obstruction.
Ways Ra Affects Your Skin
One of the most common areas affected by RA is the skin. With RA, there are often many factors that can affect the skin, including:
- Friction from repeated motion or pressure on a joint- this is particularly true when people with RA have to transfer themselves in and out of bed.
- Superficial wounds or ulcers may develop because patients are more prone to infection than other people due to their compromised immune system.
These risk factors need special attention so that they dont lead to complications such as sepsis .
Patients should always consult their physician for appropriate interventions like antibiotics if necessary in order to prevent these situations from occurring.
The skin can become dry and may also develop a rash, which can be red or purple in color. The most common area affected are the hands and feet.
Ways To Stay Healthy While Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Making sure to eat healthy foods and avoiding foods that contain high amounts of sugar and fat to keep your inflammation levels down.
A Mediterranean diet is good because it is low in saturated fat. It is low in red meat and processed food such as fried chicken or french fries.
Eating plenty of antioxidants like those found in berries, cherries and leafy greens can help with inflammation as well.
Some people find that adding certain spices to their diets helps too! Ginger, turmeric, cumin, and garlic are all good options for infusing flavor into your favorite dishes without the calories or sugar content from other foods.
Getting up and moving as much as possible. Exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days per week.
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How Do You Know If You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis In Your Hands
A person with arthritis might experience these symptoms:
- Joint stiffness that gets worse over time
- Painful joints, usually those of the fingers, toes or hips
- Numbness in extremities such as hands or feet
- Limited motion because of inflammation including morning stiffness lasting for an hour or more each day and/or swelling around ones individual joints.
- Red flags include fever
- Weight loss
- Unexplained joint pain when there is no history of injury
- Fatigue while performing physical activity without significant buildup of lactic acid in muscles and a general feeling of being unwell.
There are other symptoms that can be experienced, but those are the most common.
Becoming educated about these issues will help you make good decisions regarding your health care. It is important not only for yourself but also those close to you.
Clinical Presentation And Symptoms
The clinical symptoms of RA-ILD and M-pneu can be difficult to differentiate. RA-ILD, which can be asymptomatic for years, tends to develop insidiously over time in contrast to M-pneu which would more typically present acutely or subacutely with dyspnoea, cough, and fever.35 Traditional articular features of RA can limit mobility and exercise tolerance to the extent that exertional dyspnoea early in the course of RA-ILD is masked by this forced sedentary lifestyle. While subtle radiographic features may be present early in the disease process on HRCT, auscultatory findings may be absent initially but most cases will eventually develop fine bibasal crackles.51 Radiographically, most will develop a UIP pattern often in conjunction with digital clubbing on clinical examination a pattern very similar to that seen in IPF patients.51 Imaging findings in RA-ILD have been reviewed in detail elsewhere.35,36,52
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What Are The Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis particularly affects the small joints in the hands, wrist and feet. RA may also involve the elbows, knees, ankles and other body parts. The joint involvement in RA is symmetric, which means that if the joints in the fingers of your left hand pain, you will experience pain in the fingers of the right hand, too. The common symptoms of RA are
- Chest pain or pressure
The symptoms of RA do not remain the same all the time. There may be exacerbation and resolution from time to time.
How Does Treatment Improve Life Expectancy
Early treatment greatly improves the prognosis of RA patients. If treatment begins before symptoms cause too much damage, patients can generally go on to live a better quality of life.
Ongoing treatment and monitoring can help rheumatologists provide the most appropriate and personalized care for their patients. Each patient will experience a different set of symptoms over their lifetime. Doctors look for warning signs of other complications associated with RA and work to either prevent them or treat them as they develop.
The main goal of treatment is to reduce pain and improve quality of life. Many patients experience very effective treatment plans and continue to live their lives making appropriate lifestyle adjustments along the way.
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Medication And Treatment For Ra
More research is still needed to find effective treatment. According to research published in the journal European Respiratory Review, an analysis of various studies looked at the drug Rituxan for the treatment of RA-ILD, but the results were conflicting and its not clear whether it improves or worsens the condition.
Some other drugs, like mycophenolate mofetil, azathioprine , cyclosporine , and cyclophosphamide , are used to treat RA-ILD. A new class of drugs called antifibrotics has been used in people with other types of fibrotic lung diseases, or diseases involving lung scarring or damage. Research is ongoing to determine whether these drugs should be used in patients with RA-ILD.
Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis In The Lungs
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in the lungs vary a little, depending on the variation and severity, but broadly speaking these will include
- Painful Breathing
- Chronic fevers
When Should I See A Doctor?
The simple answer is as soon as you experience any of the above symptoms, especially if you already have rheumatoid arthritis. With any from of arthritis, and especially rheumatoid arthritis time is key.
Dont be afraid to waste your doctors time if you experience pain breathing or any difficulty whatsoever, it is always best to get it checked out. It might just save your life.
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Keep A Check On The Progression Of Your Disease
RA is a progressive, degenerative disease which over the years can cause severe damage to your various vital organs, including lungs. To prevent the acute damage that RA can cause, it is important to keep a close check on the progression of the disease. So, watch out for all the signs of rheumatoid arthritis and immediately get in touch with your primary care physician if you experience persistent cough, shortness of breath, fever or any other health complication.
Heart And Blood Vessel Disease
Pericarditis, or inflammation of the membrane that surrounds your heart, usually develops during flares. Flares are times when your RA is worse.
If it happens a lot, pericarditis can make the membrane thicker and tighter. That can interfere with your heart’s ability to work the way it should.
Rheumatoid nodules can also form on the heart and affect the way it works.
Inflammation of the heart muscle itself, called myocarditis, is a rare complication.
Heart disease doesn’t always have symptoms before a crisis. Your doctor can spot some problems during a checkup and may recommend lifestyle changes or medication.
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Easing Pain And Other Symptoms Of Costochondritis
Some people find relief by splinting the chest using an Ace wrap or something similar to try to minimize chest movement, he says. But there really is no great way to treat it, outside of time, says Gewanter.
Theres also no real way of knowing how long the pain will last, though the American Family Physician report says that it can last from weeks to months, though for some it may last for a year. Patients with costochondritis should be educated and reassured that this is a benign condition that will eventually resolve itself, the journal states, sometimes without any treatment at all.
Stomach Pain Or Indigestion
RA and medicines used to treat it are linked to mouth and stomach ulcers, stomach bleeding, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation. Painful diverticulitis and colitis are also possible if you have RA.
RA drugs like NSAIDs often cause ulcers or an upset stomach.
Belly pain is sometimes a sign of a rare RA complication called rheumatoid vasculitis — when inflammation spreads to your blood vessels. Weight loss and lack of appetite are other symptoms. Vasculitis is serious, so see a doctor right away. Learn more about vasculitis symptoms and types.
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An Immune System Weakened By Ra Treatments
When I was diagnosed and started the immunosuppressant medications, mostly Orencia, my sinus infections came back full force. If I was lucky, I only felt pressure in my head for a few days before the issue corrected itself . If I was unlucky, I got the gamut of symptoms and took antibiotics.
Over the last eight years, Ive been relatively lucky only relying on antibiotics but starting this Fall 2018 I ran into a problem. I began to feel constant pressure in my head. My nose dripped continuously and occasionally Id get the acute infection. Initially, I thought Id just take the antibiotics but they didnt help. It wasnt until my balance was affected that I saw a new doctor.
I had a CT scan . I have an acute infection and it turns out a slightly deviated septum. It is almost completely straight which on its own wouldnt be an issue except the turbinate bones are inflamed and the left one is pushing against my septum. This is causing a mild blockage that is impeding my breathing and draining abilities. Adding a tiny bit of fuel to the fire is my nasal cartilage is weak and collapses every time I breathe.
Well, I guess it wasnt just my chronic sinusitis. I just dont have the anatomy to keep myself healthy!
I am on antibiotics and a steroid nasal spray. I irrigate my sinuses twice a day. I am all set to have a balloon dilation. Later , I hope to get the septum repaired, along with treating the turbinate bones and adding a little support to the cartilage.
Do You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis
Around 1.5 million people in the U.S. have RA, and about 70% of them are women. It usually begins between ages 30 and 50, but it can happen at any age.
Experts arent sure what causes the immune system to overreact in RA. A working theory is that some people are more likely to get it for genetic reasons, and then they are exposed to certain things in the environment that trigger it.
RA causes inflammation in the fluid and tissue around the joints . This initially causes pain and swelling. Over time, it damages the cartilage and the bones themselves. This damage which is irreversible leads to decreased motion, pain, and deformity of the joints.
RA commonly begins in the small joints, which are in the hands, feet, and wrists. That said, it can also affect other larger joints, including the elbows, ankles, and knees. Symptoms in these joints include:
RA can also cause inflammation in other parts of the body. That means other symptoms can include:
A general sense of not feeling well
Up to 50% of people with RA will have effects in areas other than joints at 10 years after diagnosis. When RA affects your organs, it can lead to:
Nodules under the skin near affected joints
Dry eyes and mouth
Inflammation around the heart and/or lungs
Anemia, or decrease in red blood cells