Learn About Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis

What is the definition of Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis?

Rheumatoid pneumoconiosis (RP, also known as Caplan syndrome) is swelling (inflammation) and scarring of the lungs. It occurs in people with rheumatoid arthritis who have breathed in dust, such as from coal (coal worker's pneumoconiosis) or silica.

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What are the alternative names for Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis?

RP; Caplan syndrome; Pneumoconiosis - rheumatoid; Silicosis - rheumatoid pneumoconiosis; Coal worker's pneumoconiosis - rheumatoid pneumoconiosis

What are the causes of Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis?

RP is caused by breathing in inorganic dust. This is dust that comes from grinding metals, minerals, or rock. After the dust enters the lungs, it causes inflammation. This can lead to the formation of many small lumps in the lungs and an airway disease similar to mild asthma.

It is not clear how RP develops. There are two theories:

  • When people breathe in inorganic dust, it affects their immune system and leads to rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks healthy body tissue by mistake.
  • When people who already have RA or are at high risk for it are exposed to mineral dust, they develop RP.
What are the symptoms of Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis?

Symptoms of RP are:

  • Cough
  • Joint swelling and pain
  • Lumps under the skin (rheumatoid nodules)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
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What are the current treatments for Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis?

There is no specific treatment for RP, other than treating any lung and joint disease.

Stop exposure to coal dust.

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What are the support groups for Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis?

Attending a support group with people who have the same disease or a similar disease can help you understand your condition better. It can also help you adjust to your treatment and lifestyle changes. Support groups take place online and in person. Ask your provider about a support group that might help you.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis?

RP rarely causes serious breathing trouble or disability due to lung problems.

What are the possible complications of Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis?

These complications can occur from RP:

  • Increased risk for tuberculosis
  • Scarring in the lungs (progressive massive fibrosis)
  • Side effects from medicines you take
When should I contact a medical professional for Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis?

Call for an appointment with your provider if you have symptoms of RP and exposure to coal dust.

Talk to your provider about getting the flu and pneumonia vaccines.

If you've been diagnosed with RP, call your provider right away if you develop a cough, shortness of breath, fever, or other signs of a lung infection, especially if you think you have the flu. Since your lungs are already damaged, it's very important to have the infection treated promptly. This will prevent breathing problems from becoming severe, as well as further damage to your lungs.

How do I prevent Rheumatoid Pneumoconiosis?

People with RA should avoid exposure to inorganic dust.

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Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: May 30, 2021
Published By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron, Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Corte TJ, Wells AU. Connective tissue diseases. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 92.

Go LHT, Cohen RA. Pneumoconioses. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 101.

Raghu G, Martinez FJ. Interstitial lung disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 86.

Tarlo SM. Occupational lung disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 87.