We all know smoking is bad. It can affect nearly every organ in the body, from your skin and heart to your bones and joints. Besides the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke, smoking can also increase the risk of developing arthritis. Furthermore, smoking can increase the severity of inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a type of arthritis where the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints.
While we understand that smoking is a personal decision, knowing how it affects certain types of arthritis may convince you to quit the habit and take the big leap into better health. Below, we discuss what’s in a cigarette, how smoking affects your body and its effects on developing arthritic conditions.
What’s in a Cigarette?
In addition to tobacco leaves, cigarettes contain some 7,000 chemicals either found naturally in the plant, added, or created when the cigarette is burned. These chemicals are all used to enhance the psychoactive and addictive effects of nicotine, the substance tobacco plants use in nature to deter pests. It also happens to be one of the most prominent psychoactive substances used in today’s society.
How Smoking Affects the Body Overall
The effects of cigarette smoke inhalation can be split into two categories:
The Psychoactive Effects
Psychoactive substances change how your brain normally works. Once a user inhales nicotine, it enters the bloodstream and reaches the brain. It then binds to specific receptors that release dopamine, the feel-good hormone that causes pleasure, sharper attention, mental processing and heightened memory.
Dopamine plays an essential part in your brain’s reward system. Hence, why your brain feels rewarded every time you smoke, which is what makes smoking so addictive in the first place. Over time, your body will develop a tolerance that you’ll feel in the form of cravings and withdrawals if you choose to quit.
The Bodily Effects
The other toxins in cigarettes are what cause the numerous diseases associated with smoking. Since smoke contains several carcinogens like formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and ammonia, it damages both the immune system and can alter DNA upon inhalation. This is why smoking prompts several lung-related diseases along with various cancers, including throat, lung, bladder, mouth, pancreatic and uterine cancers.
Once in the bloodstream, these toxins damage your blood vessels and your arteries’ inner linings, causing them to inflame and function poorly. This increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
How Smoking Affects Patients with Arthritis
Smoking can both increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and worsen symptoms if you already have been diagnosed with RA. Current research shows a definitive link between smoking and RA. Scientists believe it triggers something in the immune systems of people genetically predisposed for RA, though the exact reason behind this is still unclear.1 Further research needs to be conducted to fully understand the “why” behind the link.
As for other kinds of arthritis, additional research is needed to conclude a link between smoking and arthritis. One study published in 2007 by the Mayo Clinic found that male osteoarthritis (OA) patients who smoke experience greater cartilage loss and more pain than those who do not.2 However, more diverse evidence is needed before we can draw any overarching conclusions for other types of arthritis, including OA.
Quitting Smoking Will Always Be Good for Your Health
For more than 50 years, we’ve known that smoking causes various diseases, including 15-plus types of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. But even with the best intentions, the habit can be tough to break. Nearly 70% of smokers have said they want to quit, and more than half have attempted to quit at least once in the past year.3 If you’re looking to kick the habit, have a conversation with your doctor to heighten your chances of successfully quitting for good.
And if you’re suffering from joint pain, quitting smoking is one of many things you can do to set you on the path to pain relief. The specialists at Arthritis Relief & Vascular Centers have additional solutions for treating your pain. Call (855) 910-9195 now to schedule an appointment with one of our Pain Management Physicians.