Skip to content

This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff and is brought to you by Janssen.

Rheumatoid Lung Disease

This group of lung diseases can include scarring in the lungs, fluid in the chest, nodules in the lungs, or other problems. It’s rare, but the drug methotrexate, which many people with RA take, can also cause lung problem.

Symptoms: There aren't always warning signs, but if there are, they may include cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain. You can ask your doctor if you should get a chest X-ray or other tests to check for any problems.

Treatment: The first step is to control inflammation. Your doctor may need to drain fluid around your lungs. If you have interstitial lung disease, your doctor may prescribe steroids or other medications to reduce scarring. If scar tissue has built up in the lungs, it will stay, but medications may slow down the damage.

Vasculitis (Blood Flow Problems)

Vasculitis is inflammation of the blood vessels. It's most common in advanced RA.

The amount of damage depends on the size of the arteries affected. Inflammation of small and medium arteries, like those that lead to the fingertips and nails, can harm skin and tissues. When vasculitis hits larger arteries, it can lead to nerve damage, problems using your arms or legs, or it can hurt the internal organs.

Symptoms: These vary, depending on what part of the body is affected.   

Treatment: Because vasculitis often means that RA is more severe, your doctor will focus on getting your RA under control. You may need even more intense treatment.

Depression

Not everyone with RA gets depressed, but depression is not unusual in people who have RA.

Symptoms include:

  • Deep feelings of sadness, anxiety, emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and guilt
  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions

Treatment: Many people talk with a counselor and take antidepressants, if needed. If you have symptoms of depression, tell your doctor. That way, you can work together to figure out the best treatment for you and get started ASAP.

Osteoporosis

In this condition, bones are fragile and thin, making them more likely to break. People with RA are more likely than other people to get osteoporosis. RA itself may cause bone loss, and so can some medications, such as steroids. Also, if RA pain makes you less active, that may make you more likely to get osteoporosis.

Symptoms: Bone density tests can tell you if you have it. Otherwise, you might not know until its late stages, when people may have back pain, stooped posture, a curved upper back, and fractures. They may also lose height.

Treatment: Steps to treat and prevent osteoporosis include these: Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, do weight-bearing exercises such as walking or lifting weights, quit smoking, and limit alcohol. If needed, there are also medications to treat and prevent the condition.

WebMD Medical Reference