Although smoking is linked to early death in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, researchers at the University of Manchester have discovered that quitting smoking can dramatically reduce this population’s risk. Their findings are published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research.
“This research provides important evidence that the risk of early death starts to decline in patients who stop smoking, and continues year [after] year,” said Deborah Symmons, Professor of Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Epidemiology at the University of Manchester.
“We hope that this research can be used by public health professionals and rheumatologists to help more people quit smoking and reduce premature deaths, particularly for newly diagnosed patients with rheumatoid arthritis.”
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s tissues, particularly around the joints. The disease causes joint pain and swelling and may eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity. It is estimated that more than 400,000 people in the U.K and 1.3 million people in the U.S. suffer with rheumatoid arthritis.
Smoking plays a role in the development of rheumatoid arthritis, and so the prevalence of smoking is higher in these patients than in the general population. Rheumatoid arthritis patients are also at risk of dying younger because of the development of other smoking-related health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, severe infection, and respiratory diseases.
For the study, researchers at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Manchester Musculoskeletal Biomedical Research Unit set out to discover whether there is an association between stopping smoking and subsequent mortality in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
The research, led by Rebecca Joseph, Research Assistant at the Centre for Musculoskeletal Research at the University of Manchester, evaluated anonymized patient data of hospital admissions and death certificates.
The findings showed that the risk of death was almost twice as high in patients who smoked compared to those who had never smoked; however, the risk of death for former smokers was similar to that of never smokers. In fact, among arthritis patients who quit smoking, the risk of death fell for each additional year they abstained.
“Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating and painful condition affecting over 400,000 people in the UK, it can begin at any age and is unpredictable — one day you can feel fine and the next day be confined to bed, unable to get up to dress, even go to the toilet unaided,” said Stephen Simpson at Arthritis Research UK.
Source: Manchester University