According to a recent study smoking may be a possible cause of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). During the study the following points were looked into:
- whether Rheumatoid factor (RF) positivity was related to smoking
- the effect of number of cigarettes smoked in a day and duration of smoking on the levels of Rheumatoid Factor
- difference in the effect of smoking in men and women
- effect of smoking on the disease activity measures (such as erythrocyte sedimentation rate, joint count i.e. number of joints involved, Health Assessment Questionnaire disability) and disease outcome measures (such as lung problems, x-ray abnormalities).
At the end of the study the researchers found that in all RA patients those who smoked, tend to be RF positive more as compared to those who do not smoke. Also smokers had a higher concentration of RF than non-smokers.
In patients with a prolonged history of smoking there was a marked effect on the radiographic progression and smoking was significantly linked to rheumatoid nodules and radiographic erosions. Smoking also resulted in lung involvement due to its direct effect as well as due to increased concentration of RF but it was in no way found to be linked to ESR, joint count or Health Assessment Questionnaire scores.
Hence, according to researchers smoking may contribute to the severity of disease but it has no link with the disease activity. Although this study provides evidence of a link between smoking and RA, further studies will be required to understand the exact correlation of smoking to RA.