Women's Health

Women with Rheumatoid Arthritis at Higher Risk of Lung Disorders

Women with Rheumatoid Arthritis at Higher Risk of Lung Disorders

Based on findings from a recent study, women with rheumatoid arthritis are 50% more likely to develop lung disorders. The study, published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, involved the participation of 25,000 individuals with arthritis, who were monitored for well over 10 years. The researchers found that inflammation triggered by RA can lead to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes airway obstruction. It is characterized by wheezing and breathlessness. COPD is also a general term that is used to describe lung disorders such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, refractory asthma, and a few forms of bronchiectasis. Estimates reveal that in the United States alone, over 15.7 million individuals are living with this disease.

Inflammation throughout the body

Based on the data gathered from the study, the researchers noted that individuals with RA have a 47% increased risk of developing a lung condition, while women with the condition have a 61% increased risk. “These findings are novel because it has only recently been recognized that inflammation plays a role in the development of COPD, and clinicians treating people with rheumatoid arthritis are not aware that their patients are at increased risk of developing COPD” said Dr. Diane Lacaille, lead author of the study. “As this research shows, rheumatoid arthritis doesn't just affect joints, but can cause lung disease too. This research emphasizes the importance of getting the inflammation under control as soon as possible” said Olivia Belle, director of external affairs at Arthritis Research UK.

The researchers stressed the importance of conducting further research on COPD for the purpose of recognizing the role of inflammation in its development. Moreover, they noted that it is important to control the inflammation at an early stage by being aware of early signs and symptoms such as chesty coughs, shallow breathing, and frequent chest infections. The study further assessed 24,625 individuals with RA and 25,396 individuals without the condition in order to see how many individuals were hospitalized with COPD. Dr. Lacaille and fellow researchers added the results to their initial findings in order to indicate the need for immediate control of inflammation through the use of anti-inflammatory drugs. The objective of the study was to completely prevent inflammation through effective treatment of RA.

“Lung disease associated with RA may act independently of the systemic process, meaning that patients may attain good control of joint or other constitutional RA symptoms, but still have flares or progression of lung disease. Close monitoring and directed treatment is often needed to maintain lung function over time. The optimal treatment for ILD associated with RA has not been well-studied and is based on reviews of historic treatment regimens. In general, treatment for ILD often involves prednisone or a prednisone-sparing agent such as mycophenolate or azathioprine administered over several weeks to months, with immediate improvement often seen within that time frame. This is defined as resolution or decrease in respiratory symptoms, and stability or improved lung function as tested formally in the pulmonary clinic” stated Dr. Teng Moua, director of the Interstitial Lung Disease Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Preventing worsening inflammation

It is advised that individuals suffering from RA can ease their joint pain by following a well-balanced and nutritious diet. Read on to learn more about how to best take care of yourself with RA.