smoking risks for arthritis

5 Reasons Smoking Makes Arthritis Worse

If the risks of lung disease, heart disease, cancer and bad breath weren’t good enough reasons for you to give up smoking, here’s something else you should know: Research shows that smoking is harmful to your bones, joints and connective tissue as well. No matter what form of arthritis you have, you’ll be doing your joints and yourself a favor by quitting. Here are five more reasons for people with arthritis to snuff the habit.

Higher death risk. A 2016 study published in Arthritis Care & Research analyzed data from 5,677 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and found that, over an average follow-up period of almost five years, death rates for smokers were almost double that of nonsmokers. Cardiovascular disease was the major cause of death. The good news: mortality risk fell significantly a year after quitting, particularly for heavy smokers, and it continued to fall each subsequent year.

More surgery complications. Two separate studies, presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, compared joint replacement in smokers and nonsmokers.

One, which followed 621 patients with an average age of 62, found those who smoked before and after total knee replacement had a 10-fold higher revision rate (do-over surgery) compared to nonsmokers. The other found that smokers who had the “cup” part of the hip joint replaced with a metal prosthesis had almost three times the implant failure rate compared to nonsmokers.

Worse OA. A Mayo Clinic study, published in 2007 in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, followed 159 men with knee osteoarthritis (OA) for up to 30 months and found current smokers had more severe pain and were more than twice as likely to have significant cartilage loss as nonsmokers. The researchers speculate that toxins from smoking may contribute to cartilage loss or that high carbon monoxide levels in the blood could hamper cartilage repair.

Worse RA. In a study of 164 women with RA, researchers found that both current and past smokers had worse symptoms and more joint damage than those who never smoked. Furthermore, smokers lacking a gene called glutathione S-transferase M1 (GSTM1) – which is believed to play a role in detoxifying cancer-causing agents in cigarette smoke – had higher levels of rheumatoid factor, an antibody associated with more severe RA. The study was published in 2002 in Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Less effective treatment. A study of 1,388 people with psoriatic arthritis who were using a TNF inhibitor, a type of biologic medication, found those who smoke had lower rates of response to the medication than nonsmokers. The study, published in 2014 in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, also found smokers tended to require biologic therapy earlier in the disease process.

Author: Mary Anne Dunkin

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