Rheumatoid lung disease

Pulmonology

Clinicals - History

Fact Explanation
History rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic systemic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation and extra-articular manifestations. Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a recognized complication of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causing significant increased morbidity and mortality. Main lung pathology is usual interstitial pneumonitis (UIP). Other manifestations includes bronchiectasis, bronchiolitis, and pulmonary nodules. Lung disease is related to two factors. One is disease itself causing lung problems and the other thing is drugs such as disease modifying antirheumatoid medications causing lung disease. All areas of the lung such as pleura, airways, parenchyma, and vasculature are vulnerable for interstitial and pleural disease. The severity and long duration of joint disease is associated with the increased risk for the lung disease. History rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic systemic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation and extra-articular manifestations. Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a recognized complication of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causing significant increased morbidity and mortality. Main lung pathology is usual interstitial pneumonitis (UIP). Other manifestations includes bronchiectasis, bronchiolitis, and pulmonary nodules. Lung disease is related to two factors. One is disease itself causing lung problems and the other thing is drugs such as disease modifying antirheumatoid medications causing lung disease. All areas of the lung such as pleura, airways, parenchyma, and vasculature are vulnerable for interstitial and pleural disease. The severity and long duration of joint disease is associated with the increased risk for the lung disease.
Use of disease modifying antirheumatoid medications(DMARDS) Drugs like methotrexate, gold, penicillamine and etanercept etc have a potential for causing drug-induced interstitial pneumonitis. Leflunomide is unlikely to cause lung problems compared to methotrexate. Chronic prednisone use has shown to increase the risk pneumonia in RA patients. Doses greater than 10 mg/day may double this risk. Use of disease modifying antirheumatoid medications(DMARDS)
Drugs like methotrexate, gold, penicillamine and etanercept etc have a potential for causing drug-induced interstitial pneumonitis. Leflunomide is unlikely to cause lung problems compared to methotrexate. Chronic prednisone use has shown to increase the risk pneumonia in RA patients. Doses greater than 10 mg/day may double this risk.
Shortness of breath Interstital lung disease is a recognized complication of the rheumatoid arthritis. Patients sometimes may not complain dyspnea due to an overall decrease in physical activity with advanced arthritic symptoms. Shortness of breath
Interstital lung disease is a recognized complication of the rheumatoid arthritis. Patients sometimes may not complain dyspnea due to an overall decrease in physical activity with advanced arthritic symptoms.
Cough Usually presents with non-productive dry cough Productive sputum may be associated with bronchiectasis. Cough
Usually presents with non-productive dry cough Productive sputum may be associated with bronchiectasis.
Fever Fever may be an indication for an infectious etiology. Fever
Fever may be an indication for an infectious etiology.
Weight loss Bronchiectasis is a common finding in these people. Rheumatoid arthritis also increases the risk of lung malignancy. Weight loss
Bronchiectasis is a common finding in these people. Rheumatoid arthritis also increases the risk of lung malignancy.
Smoking Smoking can trigger alveolar epithelial cell apoptosis and enhance the disease progression. Citrullination of proteins in the lung, frequently thought to be incited by smoking, which will lead to the production of anticitrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs)that may important in the pathogenesis of lung disease. Smoking
Smoking can trigger alveolar epithelial cell apoptosis and enhance the disease progression. Citrullination of proteins in the lung, frequently thought to be incited by smoking, which will lead to the production of anticitrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs)that may important in the pathogenesis of lung disease.
Other extra-articular manifestations Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease affecting the heart, vascular system, skin, kidney, nerves, and eyes. Kidney involvement may cause proteinuria and kidney failure. Other extra-articular manifestations
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease affecting the heart, vascular system, skin, kidney, nerves, and eyes. Kidney involvement may cause proteinuria and kidney failure.
Recurrent infections Pancytopenia can be seen in these patients, Reduced white cell count may predispose to recurrent infections. Rheumatoid arthritis itself is a factor for reduced immunity and immunosuppressive treatment will also be a contributory factor.
Recurrent infections
Recurrent infections
Pancytopenia can be seen in these patients, Reduced white cell count may predispose to recurrent infections. Rheumatoid arthritis itself is a factor for reduced immunity and immunosuppressive treatment will also be a contributory factor.
Recurrent infections

Clinicals - Examination

Fact Explanation
Clubbing Rheumatoid lung disease is associated with bronchiectasis. Clubbing
Rheumatoid lung disease is associated with bronchiectasis.
Dyspnea Lung fibrosis may damage the alveolar capillary membrane causing reduced gas exchange. It may be rapidly progressive dyspnea. Dyspnea
Lung fibrosis may damage the alveolar capillary membrane causing reduced gas exchange. It may be rapidly progressive dyspnea.
Hoarseness Due to the sclerosis of the cricoarytenoid joint. Hoarseness
Due to the sclerosis of the cricoarytenoid joint.
Features of lung fibrosis -Tracheal deviation to affected side -reduced lung expansion -Fine end inspiratory crackles Due to lung fibrosis Features of lung fibrosis -Tracheal deviation to affected side -reduced lung expansion -Fine end inspiratory crackles
Due to lung fibrosis
Inspiratory crackles May be bilateral fine crepitations in the lung fibrosis where as bronchiectasis may produce coarse crepitations. Inspiratory crackles
May be bilateral fine crepitations in the lung fibrosis where as bronchiectasis may produce coarse crepitations.
Joint involvement and joint deformities Rheumatoid arthritis causes symmetrical peripheral poluarthritis with the involvement of the small joints of hand and feet, mainly metarcarpophalangeal, proximal interohalangeal joints, wrist, and metatarsophalangeal joints. Joints will be swollen and tender. Other joints such as elbow, knee, shoulders, spine are occasionally involved.

Chronic inflammation of the joints can lead to various joint deformities including boutonnieres, swan neck and ulnar deviation of the wrist.
Joint involvement and joint deformities
Rheumatoid arthritis causes symmetrical peripheral poluarthritis with the involvement of the small joints of hand and feet, mainly metarcarpophalangeal, proximal interohalangeal joints, wrist, and metatarsophalangeal joints. Joints will be swollen and tender. Other joints such as elbow, knee, shoulders, spine are occasionally involved.

Chronic inflammation of the joints can lead to various joint deformities including boutonnieres, swan neck and ulnar deviation of the wrist.
Subcutaneous nodules Skin may contained nodules which may sometimes get ulcerated. Subcutaneous nodules
Skin may contained nodules which may sometimes get ulcerated.
Tachycardia and arrhythmias Involvement of the cardiac tissue may affect the electrical function of the heart. Tachycardia and arrhythmias
Involvement of the cardiac tissue may affect the electrical function of the heart.
Focal neurological signs Atlanto-axial joint involvement affects the spinal cord. Haemorrhagic stroke is also common in these patients. Focal neurological signs
Atlanto-axial joint involvement affects the spinal cord. Haemorrhagic stroke is also common in these patients.
Splenomegaly Neutropenia together with splenomegaly in these patients is called, felty’s syndrome. Splenomegaly
Neutropenia together with splenomegaly in these patients is called, felty’s syndrome.

Investigations - Diagnosis

Fact Explanation
Rheumatoid factor This is not a specific investigation for rheumatoid arthritis. But is present in nearly 80% of the patients. It is also an antibody mainly belongs to IgG , where there is an excessive production or reduced clearance than normal people. Rheumatoid factor
This is not a specific investigation for rheumatoid arthritis. But is present in nearly 80% of the patients. It is also an antibody mainly belongs to IgG , where there is an excessive production or reduced clearance than normal people.
Anticitrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs) These are antibodies to citrullinated peptides and they are quite specific for rheumatoid arthritis. ACPAs is involved in the synovial inflammation through the deposition of immune complexes and targeting of synovial antigens. Presence of this indicates a poor prognosis. Anticitrullinated protein antibodies (ACPAs)
These are antibodies to citrullinated peptides and they are quite specific for rheumatoid arthritis. ACPAs is involved in the synovial inflammation through the deposition of immune complexes and targeting of synovial antigens. Presence of this indicates a poor prognosis.
X-ray of the joints Inflammation of the synovial joints may affect the joint cavity and the surrounding bone and cartilage leading to periarticular osteopenia and bone resorption. X-ray of the joints
Inflammation of the synovial joints may affect the joint cavity and the surrounding bone and cartilage leading to periarticular osteopenia and bone resorption.
Chest X-ray This is the initial investigation of choice. Lung fibrosis,Pleural effusion and thickening of pleura can be seen in the chest x-ray.Also pulmonary hypertension secondary to lung fibrosis may be a feature.Caplan's syndrome is a condition with peripheral, well-defined nodules in the lung parenchyma. Even normal chest x-ray may have airflow obstruction. Chest X-ray
This is the initial investigation of choice. Lung fibrosis,Pleural effusion and thickening of pleura can be seen in the chest x-ray.Also pulmonary hypertension secondary to lung fibrosis may be a feature.Caplan's syndrome is a condition with peripheral, well-defined nodules in the lung parenchyma. Even normal chest x-ray may have airflow obstruction.
High-resolution chest CT (HRCT) Demonstrates increased reticular markings, ground-glass opacities and/or consolidation bilaterally with or without honeycombing consistent with an interstitial lung . Other findings include pleural involvement, rheumatoid nodules, bronchiectasis, emphysema, or even bronchiolitis. Subpleural consolidation with patchy ground glass infiltrates areseen in bronchiolitis obliterans-organizing pneumonia. High-resolution chest CT (HRCT)
Demonstrates increased reticular markings, ground-glass opacities and/or consolidation bilaterally with or without honeycombing consistent with an interstitial lung . Other findings include pleural involvement, rheumatoid nodules, bronchiectasis, emphysema, or even bronchiolitis. Subpleural consolidation with patchy ground glass infiltrates areseen in bronchiolitis obliterans-organizing pneumonia.
Open lung biopsy This is the is the only definitive procedure which has the ability to accurately diagnose an interstitial lung disease. This is rarely done. Open lung biopsy
This is the is the only definitive procedure which has the ability to accurately diagnose an interstitial lung disease. This is rarely done.
Bronchoscopy Bronchoalveolar lavage cell count may be useful to evaluate the infectious aetiology in the presence of fever. Bronchoscopy
Bronchoalveolar lavage cell count may be useful to evaluate the infectious aetiology in the presence of fever.

Investigations - Management

Fact Explanation
Erythocyte sedimentation rate Will be reduced with the treatment, this is used as marker of clinical improvement. Erythocyte sedimentation rate
Will be reduced with the treatment, this is used as marker of clinical improvement.
Rheumatoid factor Is also used as a marker of disease monitoring. Rheumatoid factor
Is also used as a marker of disease monitoring.
X-ray of the synovial joints Previously affected joints with radiographic erosions need imaging to see the clinical improvement with the DMARD therapy. X-ray of the synovial joints
Previously affected joints with radiographic erosions need imaging to see the clinical improvement with the DMARD therapy.
Pulmonary function tests (PFTs) Total lung capacity and forced vital capacity at and diffusing capacity (DLCO) will be either normal or reduced. Clinical worsening is defined when the forced vital capacity (FVC)is reduced by 10%. Pulmonary function tests (PFTs)
Total lung capacity and forced vital capacity at and diffusing capacity (DLCO) will be either normal or reduced. Clinical worsening is defined when the forced vital capacity (FVC)is reduced by 10%.
Erythocyte sedimentation rate Is usually elevated due to the chronic inflammation. Erythocyte sedimentation rate
Is usually elevated due to the chronic inflammation.
Full blood count There will be low haemoglobin due to anaemia of chronic disease. These patients will have reduction of all the cell counts leading to pancytopenia. Neutropenia together with splenomegaly in these patients is called, felty’s syndrome. MTX drug toxicity may cause reduction of the
serum absolute lymphocyte count below 500 cells/mm3.
Full blood count
There will be low haemoglobin due to anaemia of chronic disease. These patients will have reduction of all the cell counts leading to pancytopenia. Neutropenia together with splenomegaly in these patients is called, felty’s syndrome. MTX drug toxicity may cause reduction of the
serum absolute lymphocyte count below 500 cells/mm3.
Serum electrolytes, blood urea and serum creatinine Kidney involvement may cause proteinuria and kidney failure. This may be due to amyloidosis or Disease modifying anti rheumatoid medications(DMARDS). Serum electrolytes, blood urea and serum creatinine
Kidney involvement may cause proteinuria and kidney failure. This may be due to amyloidosis or Disease modifying anti rheumatoid medications(DMARDS).
Electrocardiogram and echocardiogram All the three layers of the heart can get affected with rheumatoid disease. Myocardial ischaemia, arrhythmias, heart failure may be occurred.
Diffuse lung capacity DLCO, is one of the most sensitive test available to screen for the presence interstitial lung disease in rheumatoid arthritis.
Electrocardiogram and echocardiogram
All the three layers of the heart can get affected with rheumatoid disease. Myocardial ischaemia, arrhythmias, heart failure may be occurred.
Diffuse lung capacity DLCO, is one of the most sensitive test available to screen for the presence interstitial lung disease in rheumatoid arthritis.
Pulmonary imaging studies eg:- high-resolution CT [HRCT] scan, chest radiograph These are recommend as follow-up imaging when the DLCO is reduced to less than 70% of predicted, this is because there s a possibility of having normal pulmonary function tests despite having pulmonary damage. Pulmonary imaging studies eg:- high-resolution CT [HRCT] scan, chest radiograph
These are recommend as follow-up imaging when the DLCO is reduced to less than 70% of predicted, this is because there s a possibility of having normal pulmonary function tests despite having pulmonary damage.
Chest X-ray A chest radiograph should be taken at the time RA is diagnosed, then repeated at intervals If there is any evidence of lung disease such as loss of lung volumes or interstitial markings further evaluation should be done. Chest X-ray
A chest radiograph should be taken at the time RA is diagnosed, then repeated at intervals If there is any evidence of lung disease such as loss of lung volumes or interstitial markings further evaluation should be done.

Management - Supportive

Fact Explanation
Supportive management Supplementary oxygen, and mechanical ventilatory support may be needed in advanced disease. Supportive management
Supplementary oxygen, and mechanical ventilatory support may be needed in advanced disease.
Nutrition This is particularly important due to several factors. Anaemia is there due to the chronic disease, bronchiectasis may cause protein loss via the sputum. Nutrition
This is particularly important due to several factors. Anaemia is there due to the chronic disease, bronchiectasis may cause protein loss via the sputum.
Monitoring Half of patients that develop methotrixate drug toxicity will be symptomatic within the first 6–8 months of treatment. Therefore monitoring is important with lung functions, and chest imaging for the early detection of the disease. This should be done atleast anually in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Monitoring
Half of patients that develop methotrixate drug toxicity will be symptomatic within the first 6–8 months of treatment. Therefore monitoring is important with lung functions, and chest imaging for the early detection of the disease. This should be done atleast anually in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Management - Specific

Fact Explanation
Glucocorticoids When there is ground glass infiltrates on HRCT, glucocorticoids may be helpful. 0.75 mg/kg/day prednisone during the initial four weeks of treatment, then 0.5 mg/kg/day for the next four weeks, then 20 mg/day for four weeks tapering to 10 mg/day for the next 6 weeks, and then 5 mg/day for 6 weeks is the usualtreatment schedule. Glucocorticoids
When there is ground glass infiltrates on HRCT, glucocorticoids may be helpful. 0.75 mg/kg/day prednisone during the initial four weeks of treatment, then 0.5 mg/kg/day for the next four weeks, then 20 mg/day for four weeks tapering to 10 mg/day for the next 6 weeks, and then 5 mg/day for 6 weeks is the usualtreatment schedule.
Cyclophosphamide 2 mg/kg/day orally) is started with the lower-dose prednisone (0.25 mg/kg/day) for steroid nonresponders. Cyclosporine is used to treat both acute pneumonitis and progressive pulmonary fibrosis. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant that has shown to be effective at retarding the progression in lung function in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF . Cyclophosphamide
2 mg/kg/day orally) is started with the lower-dose prednisone (0.25 mg/kg/day) for steroid nonresponders. Cyclosporine is used to treat both acute pneumonitis and progressive pulmonary fibrosis. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant that has shown to be effective at retarding the progression in lung function in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF .
Rituximab This anti-CD20 antibody is used to treat the refractory to anti-TNF-α therapy. Rituximab
This anti-CD20 antibody is used to treat the refractory to anti-TNF-α therapy.
Monitoring the response to therapy Response to treatment is considered when 10% improvement in the FVC or 15% improvement in the DLCO occurs at 12 weeks. If the FVC and DLCO remain stable over a two-year period, medical regimen can be withheld. Monitoring the response to therapy
Response to treatment is considered when 10% improvement in the FVC or 15% improvement in the DLCO occurs at 12 weeks. If the FVC and DLCO remain stable over a two-year period, medical regimen can be withheld.

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