Pulmonology and Autoimmune Lung Disease

Many autoimmune diseases can affect the lungs, to varying degrees. Shortness of breath and constant coughing fits are two of the first signs of autoimmune lung disease (also called autoimmune pulmonary disease). If you believe your breathing problems may be related to an autoimmune condition, we can help.

At the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Autoimmunity Institute, our team includes physicians who specialize in treating complex autoimmune diseases that affect the lungs, such as lupus and scleroderma.

What is autoimmune pulmonary disease?

When the body’s immune system mistakenly targets the lungs, it can cause symptoms such as shortness of breath and coughing. This damage to lung tissue is called autoimmune pulmonary disease.

Autoimmune diseases often affect multiple body systems. Autoimmune conditions that commonly affect the lungs include:

  • Lupus, which causes inflammation in different parts of your body, such as the skin, heart, and lungs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation in your joints
  • Scleroderma, which causes your skin (and sometimes other body tissues) to harden and tighten
  • Interstitial lung disease, which causes damage to your lungs
  • Pulmonary hypertension, which is a type of high blood pressure that affects the lungs’ blood vessels

Comprehensive diagnosis for autoimmune lung diseases

Because autoimmune disease affects every person differently, diagnosis can be difficult. At our Autoimmunity Institute, we make it easier for you to receive the right diagnosis so you can get the treatment you need.

People with breathing problems are evaluated by a pulmonologist (lung specialist) who is board-certified in pulmonary disease, critical care, and internal medicine. This physician may recommend blood, imaging, or pulmonary function tests to learn more about your symptoms. For your convenience, you can receive all of these tests right at West Penn Hospital.

Specialized treatment for autoimmune lung diseases

Our Autoimmunity Institute takes a first-of-its-kind approach to autoimmune disease care. Autoimmune specialists from 15 different medical disciplines work together to provide you the most comprehensive level of care possible.

This collaboration also helps our team pinpoint your exact problem — the first step to relieving your symptoms. Ultimately, your treatment will depend on the type of lung problem you have.

Your treatment may include:

  • Medication: Some medications, called immunosuppressants, block your body’s immune response. Other medications manage the pressure inside the heart to treat a condition called pulmonary hypertension.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation: Pulmonary rehab is a set of exercises that can improve your lung’s abilities, making it easier for you to breathe. Learn more about pulmonary rehabilitation.

Your care team will sit down with you to talk through the specifics of how a condition may affect your health now and in the future. They also will explain all your treatment options. If needed, they will partner with you for years to come to track any changes in your lung function and improve your overall health.

A new approach to autoimmune pulmonary disease care

We approach autoimmune disease care like no one else in the world. When you choose the Autoimmunity Institute for autoimmune pulmonary care, you benefit from our:

  • Skilled specialists, which include board-certified pulmonologists and physicians from 14 other specialties — all working together to address your needs
  • Convenient setup, where