Lung Manifestations in the Rheumatic Diseases
Lung ailments in rheumatic diseases present unique challenges for diagnosis and management and are a source of significant morbidity and mortality for patients. Unlike the idiopathic interstitial pneumonias, patients with rheumatic diseases experience lung disease in the context of a systemic disease that may make it more difficult to recognize and that may present greater risks with treatment. Despite recent advances in our awareness of these diseases, there is still a significant lack of understanding of natural history to elucidate which patients will have disease that is progressive and thus warrants treatment. What we do know is that a subset of patients with rheumatic disease experience parenchymal lung disease that can prognostically resemble idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, such as in rheumatoid arthritis, and that others can have aggressive inflammatory lung disease in the context of autoimmune myositis, systemic sclerosis, or an undifferentiated autoimmune process. As we enter into a paradigm shift where we view lung health as a cornerstone of our care of patients with rheumatic diseases, we hopefully will improve our ability to identify those patients at highest risk for pulmonary disease and progression, and offer emerging treatments which will result in better outcomes and a better quality of life.