New research suggests that rheumatoid arthritis may increase the risk of developing lung disease.
The findings, which appear in Arthritis Care & Research, indicate that greater vigilance may be needed to protect the respiratory health of individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions.
The research team wanted to investigate whether prolonged inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis predisposed individuals to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
COPD is an umbrella term that includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthma which isn’t fully reversible. It is the second leading cause of avoidable hospital admissions in Australia and remains one of the country’s leading causes of death.
The Canadian research team examined information on individuals in the province of British Columbia who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis between 1996 and 2006, and compared it with information on matched individuals in the general population.
The analysis included 24,625 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 25,396 control patients without the condition.
The investigators found that the incidence of COPD hospitalisation was greater in patients with rheumatoid arthritis than in the general population.
After adjusting for potential confounding factors, individuals with rheumatoid arthritis had a 47 per cent greater risk of needing to be hospitalised for COPD than those without the condition.
“These findings are novel because it has only recently been recognised that inflammation plays a role in the development of COPD,” said University of British Colombia researcher Dr Dianne Lacaille.
“(Many) clinicians treating people with rheumatoid arthritis are not aware that their patients are at increased risk of developing COPD,” she said.
“Our results emphasise the need to control inflammation, and in fact to aim for complete eradication of inflammation through effective treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.”
Dr Lacaille added that clinicians and people living with rheumatoid arthritis should be vigilant in watching for early symptoms of COPD.
Do you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis? Are you worried you are at an increased risk of developing lung disease?