What is rheumatoid arthritis interstitial lung disease (RA-ILD)?

About one in 10 people with rheumatoid arthritis will develop pulmonary fibrosis, where inflammation or scarring (fibrosis) affects the lungs.

Causes of rheumatoid arthritis ILD

When rheumatoid arthritis affects the lungs, this is known as rheumatoid arthritis interstitial lung disease (RA-ILD). The risk of developing RA-ILD is greater in smokers and in people with increased blood levels of anti-CCP antibodies, which are associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Although RA-ILD is more common in people who have had rheumatoid arthritis for a long time, it can occur at the same time as diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. A small number of people may experience lung problems before joint symptoms.

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis ILD

If you develop rheumatoid arthritis ILD, you may have pulmonary fibrosis symptoms, such as breathlessness and a cough, alongside the other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including joint pain, swelling and stiffness.

Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis ILD

Rheumatoid arthritis ILD is often treated with immunosuppressive therapies, as it is caused by inflammation affecting the connective tissues in your lungs.

You may also be prescribed oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation. It is advised to stop smoking.

Ongoing treatments

As well as seeing the rheumatology team for your rheumatoid arthritis, you will have regular appointments with an ILD team to monitor your lungs. Some hospitals have a combined Rheumatology and ILD clinic specifically for patients who have both conditions.


There are many types of RA-ILD. Some forms can progress over time and are associated with a reduced life expectancy.

[fs-toc-omit] Other forms of pulmonary fibrosis

[fs-toc-omit] Get support for rheumatoid arthritis ILD

Versus Arthritis

Information and support on arthritis conditions including rheumatoid arthritis.

Join a support group in your area

It’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are now over 75 pulmonary fibrosis support groups around the country.

Support groups meet informally to share experiences, provide expert information and raise funds and awareness.

Call our support line

APF runs an email and telephone support line offering information and advice about living with PF.

Find us on social media

We have an active and supportive online community ready to welcome you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates, news and connections to our online community.

Watch videos of how other people cope day to day with PF.

Information provided by Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis (APF) is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It’s intended as general information only. APF is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any loss or damage suffered by users resulting from the information published on actionpf.org.

Further information for carers:

Your essential caring guide (PDF)
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