Interstitial Lung Disease in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Spontaneous and Drug Induced
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- Hallowell, R.W. & Horton, M.R. Drugs (2014) 74: 443. doi:10.1007/s40265-014-0190-z
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Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease characterized by the destruction of articular joint structures. RA is a systemic condition that often affects multiple organs, including the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Pulmonary complications of RA are relatively common and include pleural effusion, rheumatoid nodules, bronchiectasis, obliterative bronchiolitis, and opportunistic infections. Interstitial lung disease (ILD) is a common occurrence in patients with RA, and can range in severity from an asymptomatic incidental finding to a rapidly progressing life-threatening event. Usual interstitial pneumonia and non-specific interstitial pneumonia are the two most common patterns, though others have been reported. Various disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs—in particular, methotrexate and the tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors—have been associated with RA-ILD in numerous case reports and case series, though it is often difficult to distinguish association from causality. Treatment for RA-ILD typically involves the use of high-dose corticosteroids, often in conjunction with alternative immunosuppressant agents such as azathioprine or mycophenolate mofetil, and outcomes vary widely depending on the initial pattern of lung disease. Additional research into the mechanisms driving RA-ILD is needed to guide future therapy.