Video Q & A:

RA Progression


How does RA affect the lungs & heart?

Expert:   Harry D. Fischer, MD, Chief of Rheumatology, Beth Israel Medical Center New York »

If your rheumatoid arthritis has gone untreated, your lungs and hearts-- as well as your joints-- may suffer. Find out why.

Transcript: Rheumatoid arthritis has the potential to harm the heart and lungs. The most common lung complication for people with RA is what’s known as interstitial lung disease or ILD. About one third of people with RA will develop this or other pulmonary issues. Sometimes, these symptoms appear even before joint pain does. In RA-associated ILD, the overactive immune system attacks LUNG tissue, causing scarring that can interfere with easy breathing. RA can also cause inflammation of the LINING of the lung. Known as pleurisy, this inflammation causes sharp pain whenever you inhale and exhale. RA patients may also develop rheumatoid nodules in their lungs. These aren’t painful, unless they rupture and cause a collapsed lung, which NECESSITATES a hospital visit. Rheumatoid arthritis can also harm the HEART. RA sometimes causes PERICARDIAL EFFUSION, a condition in which the area between the OUTER lining and the INNER lining of the heart accumulates fluid. Pericarditis, a condition in which the heart’s outer lining is inflamed, is VERY common in RA patients. It develops mostly during flares. When it’s persistent, the lining can thicken and tighten, hindering heart function. Perhaps due to RECURRENT inflammation, RA patients are also MORE likely to develop heart disease AND have strokes. Remember that your risk for complications may be controlled effectively, IF you manage your RA with consistent treatment and therapy. More »

Can't Find an Answer? Send us your question »