Smoking and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Smoking is a bad habit for anyone, but for those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it is a habit that is especially dangerous.

ThinkstockPhotos-78770898Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in the joints. It occurs when your immune system, the system that protects your body from outside harm, mistakenly starts attacking healthy tissue. If not managed properly, over time, RA can cause joint damage—and can even result in permanent joint destruction.

Unlike the more common osteoarthritis, RA is not associated with factors such as aging, obesity, or injury, but lifestyle choices, such as smoking, not only increase your odds of developing the disease but also make the condition worse for those who already have it. In addition, smoking combined with RA can lead to even greater problems, such as heart disease.

Recent studies indicate that tobacco is highly associated with and the probable cause of RA in many instances and is a leading factor when the condition worsens. According to one study, Smokers with a specific gene makeup are 50% more likely to develop RA than those who do not smoke, and those who get it, usually develop a more serious form of the disease.

Smoking also affects how well those who develop RA respond to treatments. In general, smokers are less likely to achieve remission and have worse outcomes because tobacco reduces the effectiveness of medications used to treat swelling and reduce pain for rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Having rheumatoid arthritis, in and of itself, it’s a risk factor for developing heart disease. In fact, over the last ten years, the leading cause of death for people with RA is cardiovascular disease. Smoking, combined with RA raises your risk of developing heart disease to a much higher level.

Quitting smoking can go a long way toward rheumatoid arthritis prevention. If you’re at risk for developing RA or if you already have it, you don’t want to light up, and if you’re already smoking, you want to quit.

May is arthritis awareness month. If you or a loved one either has or is at risk of developing arthritis, please speak to your doctor immediately about treatment options. To make an appointment at Jamaica Hospitals’ Ambulatory Care Center, please call 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.