Caplan's Syndrome: This is a combination of rheumatoid arthritis with pneumoconiosis (a chronic lung disease associated with the inhalation of mining dust). This will manifest in nodules and can progress to severe pulmonary fibrosis.
Interstitial lung disease: Standard radiographs show that ILD is estimated to affect 2-5 percent of patients with diffusion capacity abnormalities (the ability to take in a full amount of air) affecting about 40 percent. CT scans have shown even higher rates, with ILD affecting 5-10 percent of all RA patients.
Bronchiolitis: Recurring, non-resolving pneumonia, which doesn't respond to antibiotics. It is the scarring of the small airways in the lungs (bronchiolitis obliterans).
Bronchiecstasis: Occurs in about 10 percent of patients and is more common amongst those patients with cystic fibrosis.
Arteritis: This condition is very rare and often associated with other systemic lung conditions.
Infections: Respiratory infections are the cause of 15-20 percent of the deaths of rheumatoid patients.
Drug toxicity: "Acute interstitial pneumonitis may occur in 1-5 percent of patients treated with methotrexate. Penicillamine and gold may also pulmonary complications" (www.patients.ca.uk).
Pleural effusion: This condition is very common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Lung cancer: "Lung cancer is more common in rheumatoid arthritis patients than" in other patients (www.patients.ca.uk).
Other conditions include: apical fibro-bullous disease (apical fibrotic cavity lesions); thoracic cage immobility (where the lungs are unable to expand to their full capacity); primary pulmonary hypertension (this is rare); and secondary pulmonary hypertenstion (as a result of ILD, is more common).
If you have rheumatoid arthritis and are experiencing any unexplained and uncommon-to-you breathing issues, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Most treatment involves taking immuno-suppressive medications and fluid removal from the lungs.