Smoking and Rheumatoid Arthritis
While heavy cigarette smoking is unhealthy for anyone, there are particular risks associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, there are risks associated with those who are genetically predisposed to rheumatoid arthritis, meaning smoking can significantly increase the risk of developing the disease.
The Mayo Clinic says on the subject, “Studies show that a person's risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis isn't limited to genetic predisposition. Environmental risk factors also play a role in who develops rheumatoid arthritis, and smoking has been shown to be one of the strongest environmental risk factors.
The mechanism isn't well-understood, but researchers suspect smoking somehow ignites faulty immune functioning in people who are genetically predisposed to rheumatoid arthritis. This risk is thought to be greater in people with certain types of genetic factors that are associated with rheumatoid arthritis.”
The British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) has also found that having a history of smoking can mean an increased risk for developing RA as well, even if you have quit smoking.
Medication and RA
However, the risk of developing RA isn’t the only contraindication of smoking and RA. Studies show that smoking can reduce the effectiveness of medication for RA, making one more at risk for complications from the disease.
This can result in medications either not working, or having to increase it in order to get it to have any effect on you. This can be problematic for medication that should not be taken in large doses but is necessary to help control your symptoms.
Current studies show that RA sufferers are 50 percent less likely to respond to the most common medications used to treat and control the illness.
Additionally, women taking birth control who also smoke, whether they have RA or not, place themselves at a much higher risk for a heart attack and stroke (no matter the age of the patient).
Psychological Effects of Smoking and RA
Although smoking is ill-advised for you if you have RA, it can be problematic for you to quit because it can temporarily dull the pain associated with the disease.
Although smoking causes an array of problems for those with and without this condition, this simple factor alone can make it nearly impossible for some individuals to quit.
Smoking and Nodules
The BSR also found that in addition to smoking increasing the risk for people developing this disease, and it also increases your risk of developing nodules.
RA nodules are hard lumps that appear under the skin, typically on joints in the fingers and elbows. They can be single or clustered and generally are 2mm to 5mm in diameter.
Nodules are typically not treated and are more of a cosmetic issue, but may receive surgical intervention if they are painful. Since they are generally painless, most of the time they are left as they are.