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Definition of Caplan's syndrome

Inflammation and scarring of the lungs in people with rheumatoid arthritis who have exposure to coal dust.

Alternative names for Caplan's syndrome

Rheumatoid pneumoconiosis

Causes of Caplan's syndrome

Inhalation of coal dust causes inflammation and scarring of the lung. Persons with rheumatoid arthritis are more prone to develop larger areas of inflammation and scarring in response to coal dust. Caplan's syndrome is very rare in the USA.


Prevention of Caplan's syndrome

People with rheumatoid arthritis should avoid exposure to hazardous dust.

Symptoms of Caplan's syndrome

  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • nodules of the skin (rheumatoid nodules)
  • joint swelling and pain

Signs and tests of Caplan's syndrome
Your health care provider will take a detailed medical history that will include questions about your occupations (past and present) and other possible sources of exposure to coal dust. A physical exam, with special attention paid to the presence of joint and skin disease, will be performed. Other tests that may aid in the diagnosis include:

  • chest X-ray
  • joint X-rays
  • pulmonary function tests
  • rheumatoid factor test

Modified 3-8-04
Information compiled from the National Institutes of Health


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