Arthritis Foundation of South Africa
1,027 members59 posts

“To puff or not to puff ?”

The fact that smoking causes lung and heart disease isn't exactly news, and only tobacco industry executives would express (feigned) shock at being told. But, excuse the pun, cigarettes can lead to a whole slew of problems involving every system of your tar-filled body, especially if your immune system is already compromised. The warning labels on cigarette packages mention zip about ones bones, Rheumatoid arthritis or Psoriasis – they should! I recently read a book published by The American Council on Science and Health. Cigarettes:

What the Warning Label Doesn't Tell You is a comprehensive look at the medical evidence of all types of harm triggered by smoking. Referencing over 450 articles from medical journals and reviewed by 45 experts — mainly medical doctors and PhDs — if this book doesn't convince you to quit, nothing will! Did you know that smokers are at least two to three times more likely to develop Psoriasis? - a skin disease which causes patches of the skin to become red and scaly, with associated itchiness. If the rash develops on a joint, such as the elbow or knee, it may make it difficult to move that joint (Psoriatic arthritis). Studies have shown that this disease is more common among smokers than non - smokers.

Smoking interferes with bone healing, decreasing the body’s ability to manufacture new bone tissue. For example, in one group of people who had broken their legs, complete healing took an average of 269 days in smokers, as compared to 136 days in non-smokers. Smokers are much more likely than non-smokers to need special medical procedures such as bone grafting to help heal their broken bones. In another group of patients who had surgery on their wrist bones, complete healing took an average of seven months in smokers, as compared to four months in non-smokers.

Smoking increases your chances of developing osteoporosis (the loss of bone mass which results in brittle bones and of breaking bones as a result of this disease). One reason why you’re more likely to develop osteoporosis if you smoke is that smoking slows down blood flow and interferes with your body’s absorption of calcium which is essential for strong bones. Your body obtains calcium from the food you eat, especially milk and other dairy products. Calcium is absorbed from your digestive tract into your bloodstream, where it travels to your bones and is used in bone remodelling, a process whereby every day, some of the tissue in your bones is broken down, and new bone is made to replace it. A good blood supply is essential for remodelling of the bones.

Having a “puff” may stop teenagers from building up as much bone as they should. A recent study showed that the bones of teenage girls who smoke are less dense than the bones of non-smoking girls of the same age. Thus girls who smoke during their teenage years may be more likely to develop osteoporosis later in life. Smoking also increases your chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the linings of the joints become inflamed, causing pain, stiffness, redness, and swelling. If you smoke, you are about twice as likely as a non-smoker to develop rheumatoid arthritis. And if you already have rheumatoid arthritis, smoking can make the disease worse. Smokers with rheumatoid arthritis are especially likely to develop complications of rheumatoid arthritis that affect parts of the body other than the joints.

Systemic lupus erythematosus, usually called lupus, is a disease that can affect many different parts of the body, especially the joints, skin and kidneys. Like rheumatoid arthritis, it is a chronic disease, and it is caused by a malfunction of the immune system. Lupus can be quite severe, even fatal. Recent studies have shown that smokers have an increased risk of this disease whilst smoking is a problem for people who already have lupus because it decreases the effectiveness of medicines used to treat this disease.

It's very surprising to note that smoking can have a few health benefits. Because they deplete

women's oestrogen levels, cigarettes can lead to less endometriosis and other conditions related to the hormone. Smoking also decreases the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knees, perhaps because the pliability of thin bones takes some pressure off of the cartilage. And because it jacks up dopamine levels, it helps ward off Parkinson's disease. Of course, these benefits seem to be side effects of the hazards of smoking, so the trade-off hardly seems worth it!

2 Replies

"If you smoke, you are about twice as likely as a non-smoker to develop rheumatoid arthritis."

Wow, that's very interesting. Thanks for sharing Mike


After reading that I wish I smoked ... I have never smoked in my life and developed endometriosis anyway and my knees have osteo arthritis I might not of had if I had smoked...

My OH has also never smoked and has COPD so.... Are we both just unlucky .... You tell me cos I don't feel very lucky

VG :(