Caplan syndrome

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Caplan syndrome.

Intrapulmonary nodules, histologically similar to subcutaneous rheumatoid nodules, associated with rheumatoid arthritis [RA] and pneumoconiosis in coal workers. The exact prevalence of the disease is unknown it is estimated that about 9 to 27% have been reported so far.

Caplan syndrome

Caplan syndrome occurs only in patients with both RA and pneumoconiosis related to mining dust (coal, asbestos, silica). The condition occurs in miners (especially those working in anthracite coal-mines), asbestosis, silicosis and other pneumoconiosis. There is probably also a genetic predisposition, and smoking is thought to be an aggravating factor.

Caplan syndrome might lead to numerous growths in the lung if scarring becomes severe. Patients also face a higher risk of developing tuberculosis [TB]. Only rarely does the condition lead to an inability to function, but it usually causes some breathing limitations. Doctors typically advise patients to stop working in dust-producing environments and to stop smoking if they use tobacco.

  • Smoking tends to aggravate symptoms of Caplan's syndrome.

  • People with rheumatoid arthritis should avoid exposure to hazardous dust.

Attending support groups with other people who have similar diseases can help you understand your disease and adjust to its treatment and other lifestyle changes.


Caplan syndrome presents with cough and shortness of breath [SOB] in conjunction with features of rheumatoid arthritis such painful joints and morning stiffness. There may be swollen MCP joints and rheumatoid nodules; auscultation of the chest may reveal diffuse rales that do not disappear on coughing or taking a deep breath.


Your healthcare provider will take a detailed medical history that will include questions about your jobs (past and present) and other possible sources of exposure to mining dust. The health care provider will also do a physical exam, paying special attention to the presence of joint and skin disease.

Tests may include:

  • Chest radiology shows multiple, round, well defined nodules, usually 0.5-2.0 cm in diameter, which may cavitate and resemble tuberculosis.

  • Lung function tests may reveal a mixed restrictive and obstructive ventilatory defect with a loss of lung volume. There may also be irreversible airflow limitation and a reduced DLCO (diffusing capacity of lung for carbon monoxide).

  • Rheumatoid factor, antinuclear antibodies, and non-organ specific antibodies may be present in the serum.

  • Silicosis and asbestosis must be considered in the differential with TB.


Although there is no cure for the disease, the symptoms can be treated by undergoing medical treatment. X-rays and other physical examinations are carried out to diagnose the disease. If you have been diagnosed with Caplan's Syndrome and if you believe it has been caused due to your working conditions, you may be able to claim financial compensation.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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