Rheumatoid Arthritis & Pulmonary Fibrosis – Is There A Connection?

Janice CarsonBy: Janice Carson

Patients diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis, known as RA for short, are more prone to develop Pulmonary Fibrosis, according to studies reported by the European Respiratory Review. Rheumatoid arthritis is known as an autoimmune disease that usually develops between the ages of thirty and sixty. The disease is more commonly found in female patients, with a total of 4 percent of females at risk. Male patients have a slightly lower chance of developing the disease, with a total of 3 percent at risk, according to recent studies. Statistics show that for every one hundred thousand patients, forty-one will be diagnosed with this disease ever year. According to a survey by Health line, there are approximately 1.3 million patients diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The disease is known to attack the tissue found near certain joints in the body. Apart from attacking these areas, other body parts such as organs can also be targeted. Chronic swelling is one of the most common symptoms of the disease, which also leads to chronic joint pain ranging from mild to severe. If untreated, the disease can eventually cause permanent disability and life-threatening conditions in the diagnosed patient.

Connection Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Pulmonary Fibrosis

Other symptoms commonly associated with the disease include painful, tender, stiff and tender joints, as well as deformed joints, as specified by Medicine Net. The result could also be stiffness and pain after sitting for a long period. Due to the symptoms varying from person to person and being related to other diseases as well, diagnosing Rheumatoid arthritis is seen as a difficult task that involved numerous tests in order to determine whether or not the patient has this type of arthritis.

Pulmonary Fibrosis And Rheumatoid Arthritis

According to recent studies, Pulmonary Fibrosis is more commonly found within patients diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. A clinical study that was completed by the National Human Genome Research Institute have confirmed that around forty percent of patients diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis are also suffering from Pulmonary Fibrosis. While this number is quite alarming, medical professionals are not certain what exactly causes the connection between these two diseases.

Pulmonary Fibrosis is known as an interstitial lung disease and is just one of the many diseases in this family. The disease causes scarring to the lung tissue, which makes breathing harder for the patient. When a patient develops this condition, the tissue that is found within the deeper parts of the lung becomes scarred. Research has also found that the tissue can become stiff and thick as a result of the condition. The affected areas are usually the tissue found within the air sacs, as well as the tissue in between the air sacs. Scarring forms inside the tissue, which leads to less oxygen being passed through the walls of the air sacs. This causes less oxygen to be carried into the bloodstream, affecting the breathing ability and the oxygen levels of the patient. At the moment, medical professionals have no way to reverse the damage done to the tissue caused by this condition. There are, however, medication that can help slow the effects of the disease.

While patients diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis are usually aged thirty and older, it is more likely for Pulmonary Fibrosis to develop in patients aged fifty to seventy-five.
Even though medical experts have been working on curing this conditions for many years, no effective solution have been developed as yet. While the condition might develop at a slow pace in some patients, there are numerous patients that experiences faster developing symptoms. In patients where the condition develops faster, it is found that the patient lives around three to five years after being diagnosed with the disease.

It is also common for patients diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis to receive sup-plemental oxygen. This assists with their breathing functionality due to the condi-tion making it harder to breathe. The condition can also eventually lead to other conditions related to the heart and lungs. These conditions include infections in the lung, a collapsed lung, lung cancer and blood clots. It is also known to cause heart failure in some patients, as well as pulmonary hypertension and respiratory failure.

Since diagnosing the disease can be a difficult task, doctors will usually start by asking the patient several questions that relates to their environment and their family’s history. Smoking is also considered as one of the leading influencers in many cases, which is why a doctor will also ask whether a patient is currently a smoker or have been a smoker in the past. Toxic working conditions will also be considered. Several tests are also performed, which includes a breathing test, blood tests, CT scan and an X-ray. Many doctors have found an exercise test to also be effective in order to determine the rate at which oxygen enters the bloodstream.

Conclusion

While the connection between Pulmonary Fibrosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis is still being researched, these two diseases have been identified to be commonly related to each other. Patients suffering from a combination of the diseases are more prone to experience the effects of the disease in a severe state. This is why early treatment is essential and can assist with the prolonging of the development of the severity of the condition.

References

  • http://pulmonaryfibrosis.org/life-with-pf/about-pf
  • http://www.healthline.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis/facts-statistics-infographic
  • http://www.rheumatology.org/Learning-Center/Statistics
  • http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis-related-stats.htm
  • http://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/arthritis-info/rheumatoid-arthritis/lung-involvement-in-ra/