Rheumatoid arthritis patients who smoke are at a higher risk of early death, but the new study also suggests quitting smoking works to reduce the risk. Researcher Deborah Symmons said, “This research provides important evidence that the risk of early death starts to decline in patients who stop smoking, and continues year on year.”
The researchers analyzed data from rheumatoid arthritis patients in the U.K. and found that rheumatoid arthritis patients who smoke had double the risk of early death, compared to those who did not smoke. Furthermore, the risk among those who quit smoking was similar to those who had never smoked, and the risk fell every year a person did not smoke.
Symmons added, “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.”
Previous research has found the role smoking plays in the development of rheumatoid arthritis and that the smoking rate among rheumatoid arthritis patients is higher than in the general population.
Rheumatoid arthritis patients are also at higher risk for heart disease, cancer, severe infection, and respiratory disease.
Stephen Simpson, director of research and programs at Arthritis Research U.K. concluded, “Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating and painful condition … 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.”