People living with arthritis are at greater risk of a deadly lung disease, it has been warned.

The 400,000 people with rheumatoid arthritis in Britain, and 50 million in the US, are almost 50 per cent more likely to end up with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to the results of a new study.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term illness in which the immune system causes the body to attack itself, causing painful, swollen and stiff joints.

But the extra problems come from the inflammation it causes in those joints.

The authors of the study, published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, say people with arthritis should be vigilant in looking for the first signs of COPD, which is the second most common lung disease after asthma in Britain.

The researchers followed 24,625 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 25,396 people who were free of the condition to record how many were hospitalised with COPD.

While it was once thought COPD was caused by inflammation in the lungs specifically, experts now think inflammation elsewhere in the body could also be a trigger.

Dr Lacaille added: ‘Our results emphasize the need to control inflammation, and in fact to aim for complete eradication of inflammation through effective treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.’

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