Interstitial Lung Disease in Elderly Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients


The increase in life expectancy together with better care of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has led to higher proportions of elderly individuals with RA. This has challenged the treatment of the disease in older aged patients, usually characterized by comorbid conditions and polypharmacy. Overall, the lung involvement in RA is present in up to 80% of patients, depending on the assessment tools used, and interstitial abnormalities are among the most common; when present, interstitial lung disease (ILD) worsens the prognosis of RA, and is the second most common cause of mortality. The aged lung undergoes functional and structural changes termed immunosenescence and inflammaging, which facilitate the occurrence of fibrosis of the lung. Therefore, ILD tends to occur more frequently in older patients with RA. The age at onset of RA distinguishes patients as having young-onset RA (YORA, < 60 years) or late-onset RA (LORA, > 60 years); the latter are characterized by more severe features of the disease and higher rates of lung involvement. The most frequent RA-related ILD radiological pattern is usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP); this includes peripheral and basal predominant reticulation and honeycombing with or without associated traction bronchiectasis. Patients with the UIP pattern are usually older and have more rapid decline in lung function and a worse prognosis. Treatment with corticosteroids in elderly patients carries the risk of adverse effects, such as osteoporosis, infections, diabetes, peptic ulcers, and cataract. The use of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) is generally well-tolerated by the elderly. The current narrative review aims at elucidating the association between ILD and RA in older individuals.

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Correspondence to Nicola Scichilone.

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RM, GG, AB, and NS have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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Messina, R., Guggino, G., Benfante, A. et al. Interstitial Lung Disease in Elderly Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients. Drugs Aging 37, 11–18 (2020).

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