World No Tobacco Day: Smoking increases the risk of rheumatism
According to experts, there are fewer and fewer smokers in Germany, but many Germans still regularly use cigarettes and thus endanger their health. Smoking not only increases the risk of cardiovascular and lung diseases, but also rheumatism. In addition, tobacco consumption exacerbates rheumatic damage.
Tobacco consumption is a health hazard
Smoking is dangerous for your health. This is not only on cigarette packs, but has also been proven in numerous scientific studies. Tobacco users fall ill and die not only from lung cancer, but also from various other types of cancer, lung disease and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, smoking doubles the risk of rheumatism, as experts now report on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day on May 31.
Over a quarter million Germans have rheumatoid arthritis
The general term “rheumatism” comprises several hundred diseases, some of which are very similar.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common inflammatory joint disease, according to the German Society for Rheumatology (DGRh). According to this, around 550,000 Germans suffer from the disease, which is often associated with constant joint pain.
Women are affected three times more often. The onset of illness is possible at any age, usually between the ages of 40 and 50.
As the DGRh now reports, seven cigarettes a day increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by more than double.
The experts therefore urge patients to stop smoking on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day on May 31.
Smoking damages all tissues and organs
With every puff of a cigarette, a mixture of around 4,000 substances enters the lungs. Most of the pollutants are distributed through the bloodstream in the body. That is why smoking not only damages the respiratory tract, but all tissues and organs, explains the DGRh.
The less well-known consequences include the poor influence on rheumatic diseases.
According to Professor Dr. med. Hanns-Martin Lorenz, President of the DGRh and Head of the Rheumatology Section at Heidelberg University Hospital, not exactly known:
"However, we suspect that smoking causes immune system malfunctions that can give certain people the last impetus to develop rheumatoid arthritis."
According to the expert, smoking could promote the formation of antibodies that attack the synovial membrane and thereby initiate the destruction of the joints.
According to the communication, the study results are clear: heavy smokers are much more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Women are particularly at risk.
Less than seven cigarettes a day increase the risk of illness by more than double. The risk increases after just a few years and continues up to 15 years after stopping smoking.
Drug effectiveness is weakened
In addition, smokers are at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases than non-smoking rheumatism patients. And therapies are worse:
"Smoking can also weaken the effectiveness of rheumatism medication and especially the newer biologicals," explains Professor Lorenz.
"These patients may therefore need higher doses and are therefore increasingly exposed to the side effects of the rheumatic drugs."
The progression of the disease is accelerated
Earlier studies have shown that smoking also accelerates the progression of the disease. A recent study from Sweden showed that smokers can often quickly destroy their joints at the beginning of the disease.
Emil Rydell from the University of Lund and co-workers have accompanied a group of rheumatism patients for more than five years.
According to the scientists, every fifth patient experienced a rapid deterioration during this period despite treatment, which was shown on the X-ray images as an increasing narrowing of the joint space and through erosions of the bone.
Smokers were particularly often affected. As the researchers report in the journal "Arthritis Research & Therapy", there was a 3.6 times higher rate of joint damage in active smokers. In previous smokers the risk was increased by a factor of 2.79.
Early treatment can prevent the joints from being destroyed
"The first months and years after the onset of symptoms are a crucial phase in rheumatoid arthritis," says Professor Lorenz. Early treatment today can save many patients from destruction of the joints and loss of quality of life.
"Unfortunately, we often observe in smokers that the disease cannot be adequately controlled," says the rheumatologist. Stopping smoking is therefore one of the most important accompanying measures in rheumatism therapy:
"All patients should stop smoking at the latest when they first take the medication." Every treating rheumatologist must give this advice to his patients as part of the treatment. (ad)