Can Smoking Increase Your Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis?
It's true. Smoking cigarettes can make you more likely to get rheumatoid arthritis, especially if you're a female. Women are already at least twice as likely to get RA as men, and now studies by James Cerhan, MD, PhD have shown that women who smoke are twice as likely to get RA as those who don't.
A Chronic Disease
Rheumatoid Arthritis is not only debilitating and painful, but chronic as well. RA, unlike other types of arthritis, is an inflammatory type. An autoimmune disease, it occurs when the white blood cells start attacking the tissue lining the joints. While the cause for this is unknown, it is speculated that this could occur upon exposure to an infection. The disease cannot be inherited, but susceptibility to this disease can be.
The disease typically begins in the smaller joints, such as the hands and wrists, and later spreads to larger joints. It may be characterized by lumps, which vary in size and usually aren't painful, called rheumatoid nodules. As the disease is predominantly characterized by inflammation, pain, swelling, and aching can be noticed around joints. Sometimes, the joints will deform as a result. Other symptoms include fatigue, loss of motion/strength and fever.
Women who are in their 20-50s are usually the age bracket that the disease affects, but the disease can also affect men and people older and younger than the specified parameters.
Since RA is a chronic disease, there is no cure, and it doesn't go away. It does, however, tend to surface, in moments known as flare-ups and then recede. During this time, symptoms will lessen or disappear altogether. RA is not fatal, but it can significantly impede on having an life enjoyment.
During flare-ups, inflammation can be controlled with prescription medication or even other anti-inflammatory drugs, but there are side effects of frequent, long-term use. Stomach bleeding is one of the predominant problems with this sort of treatment, and another drugs, such as the ones that inhibit inflammatory enzymes, have been linked with heart attack and stroke. Surgeries can sometimes remove certain antibodies causing inflammation, but they are long term and involve a series of out-patient procedures over as long as four months. Other surgeries tend to occur when the joint deformation is quite severe in the form of joint replacement surgeries.
There are alternative treatments available, which can often function as a complementary treatment or on their own. Alternative treatments are usually found in natural supplements which contain only natural ingredients and are therefore free of negative side effects and available over-the-counter. If you are a female smoker and you quit now, your chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis are still statistically increased, but your rate of risk will not be nearly as high as a woman who continues to smoke.
Photo Credit: Mina.Yakine