My patient with primary Sjogren’s syndrome has now been diagnosed with COPD despite lack of a significant smoking history. Is there a connection between Sjogren’s syndrome and COPD?

Increasing body of evidence suggests that COPD in patients with primary Sjögren’s syndrome (PSS) is not uncommon even among those who never smoked (1).

 
A 2015 study of patients with PSS reported that overall 41% of patients with PSS, including 30% of those who never smoked, fulfilled the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) criteria for COPD. More specifically, pulmonary function tests (PFTs) showed decreased vital capacity (VC), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV-1)  and DLCO in patients with PSS. Importantly, lab inflammatory and serological features were poorly associated with PFT results, while radiographic signs of interstitial lung disease (ILG) were absent in one-half of patients with PSS and COPD (1).

 
A longitudinal study with a mean follow-up of 11 years found a 37% rate of development of COPD among patients with PSS (2). Another related study reported a poor correlation between respiratory symptoms and COPD disease as assessed by PFTs in PSS, with the authors recommending that PFTs be performed “liberally” in all patients with PSS regardless of symptoms (3).

 
Lastly, a population-based cohort study of female adults found significantly higher rate of COPD among patients with PSS compared to controls (4).

 
Although the exact pathogenic mechanism behind PSS-associated COPD is unclear, xerotrachea and impaired mucocilliary clearance, as well as inflammatory infiltrates in the exocrine glands of the airways, all leading to physical obstruction and bronchial hyperreactivity have been suggested (1).

 

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that COPD is associated with many other autoimmune diseases (eg, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus), and a genetic link has been implicated between COPD and autoimmunity? (5,6).

 

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References
1. Nilsson AM, Diaz S, Theander E, et al. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is common in never-smoking patients with primary Sjögren’s syndrome. J Rheumatol 2015;42:464-71. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/270907531_Chronic_Obstructive_Pulmonary_Disease_Is_Common_in_Never-smoking_Patients_with_Primary_Sjogren_Syndrome
2. Mandl T, Diaz S, Ekberg O, et al. Frequent development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in primary SS-result of a longitudinal follow-up. Rheumatology 2012;51:941-46. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221760110_Frequent_development_of_chronic_obstructive_pulmonary_disease_in_primary_SS-results_of_a_longitudinal_follow-up
3. Bolmgren VS, Olssson P, Wollmer P, et al. Respiratory symptoms are poor predictors of concomitant chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in patients with primary Sjögren’s syndrome. Rheumatol Int 2017;37:813-18. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s00296-017-3678-5.pdf
4. Shen TC, Wu BR, Chen HJ, et al. Risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in female adults with primary Sjögren’s syndrome. A nationwide population-based cohort study. Medicine 2016; 95:1-6. http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/26962839
5. Hemminki K, Liu X, Ji J et al. Subsequent COPD and lung cancer in patients with autoimmune disease. Eur Respir J 2011;37:463-74. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21282811
6. Ji X, Niu X, Qian J, et al. A phenome-wide association study uncovers a role for autoimmunity in the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Resp Cell Mol Biol 2018;58:777-79. https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/10.1165/rcmb.2017-0409LE

My patient with primary Sjogren’s syndrome has now been diagnosed with COPD despite lack of a significant smoking history. Is there a connection between Sjogren’s syndrome and COPD?

How can I distinguish cardiac asthma from typical bronchial asthma?

Certain clinical features of cardiac asthma, defined as congestive heart failure (CHF) associated with wheezing, may be useful in distinguishing it from bronchial asthma, particularly in older patients with COPD (1-3).

• Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea associated with wheezing
• Presence of rales or crackles, ascites or other signs of CHF
• Poor response to bronchodilators and corticosteroids
• Formal pulmonary function test with bronchoprovocation demonstrating minimal methacholine response.

 
Cardiac asthma is not uncommon. In a prospective study of patients 65 yrs of age or older (mean age 82 yrs) presenting with dyspnea due to CHF, cardiac asthma was diagnosed in 35% of subjects. Even in non-elderly patients, cardiac asthma has been reported in 10-15% of patients with CHF (2).

 
The mechanism(s) underlying cardiac asthma is likely multifactorial. Pulmonary edema and pulmonary vascular congestion have traditionally been considered as key factors either through edema in the interstitial fluid of bronchi squeezing the bronchiolar lumen or by externally compressing the entire airway structure and the bronchiole wall. Reflex bronchoconstriction involving the vagus nerve, bronchial hyperreactivity, systemic inflammation, and airway remodeling may also play a role (1,3). 

 
Treatment of choice for cardiac asthma typically includes diuretics, nitrates and morphine, not bronchodilators or corticosteroids (1,3). 

 
Bonus Pearl: Did you know that the term “cardiac asthma” was first coined by the Scottish physician, James Hope, way back in 1832 to distinguish it from bronchial asthma!

 

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References
1. Litzinger MHJ, Aluen JKN, Cereceres R, et al. Cardiac asthma: not your typical asthma. US Pharm. 2013;38:HS-12-HS-18. https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/cardiac-asthma-not-your-typical-asthma
2. Jorge S, Becquemin MH, Delerme S, et al. Cardiac asthma in elderly patients: incidence, clinical presentation and outcome. BMC Cardiovascular Disorders 2007;7:16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17498318
3. Tanabe T, Rozycki HJ, Kanoh S, et al. Cardiac asthma: new insights into an old disease. Expert Rev Respir Med 2012;6(6), 00-00. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23234454

 

How can I distinguish cardiac asthma from typical bronchial asthma?