Is There a Link Between Exposure to Secondhand Smoke and Arthritis?

Arthritis is a term that describes more than 100 types of joint disease characterized by inflammation. The symptoms of arthritis are generally swelling, stiffness, and pain that can then lead to a decrease in range of motion of the affected joint. Arthritis affects men and women of all ages and there are many different types of arthritis. Some, like osteoarthritis, affect only the joints. Others, like the autoimmune condition rheumatoid arthritis, can also cause complications in other organs such as the eyes, lungs, and heart.

What Causes Arthritis?

The exact cause of arthritis is unknown, but scientists have discovered a few factors that increase the risk of developing certain types of arthritis. For example, lower than normal levels of a naturally produced protein in the body, called klotho protein, may contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.1,2 These findings lead scientists to believe that it may be possible to replenish klotho protein levels — and therefore use it as a possible treatment in the prevention of arthritis.

Furthermore, active smoking has been associated with an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and has even been deemed one of the most important risk factors for developing the condition.

New Link Found Between Arthritis and Secondhand Smoke

A recent study has found that you don’t even have to be an active smoker for the effects of cigarette smoking to contribute to your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Exposure to secondhand smoke as a child may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis as an adult.3

The study began in 1990 and was published in Rheumatology in August 2018. The aim of the study was to analyze the health history of women who did and did not develop rheumatoid arthritis in order to discern if active and passive smoking are risk factors for the condition. The study looked at the health of 98,995 French women born between the years of 1925 and 1950.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system attacks your own body, more specifically the tissue inside of the joints called the synovium, causing unnecessary inflammation. For this reason, it’s referred to as an autoimmune disease.

Every two to three years, the volunteer participants were sent a questionnaire about their health, lifestyle, and any medical events that had occurred. To determine smoke exposure as a child, the first questionnaire allowed women to identify how often and for how long they were exposed to secondhand smoke during their childhood. Questionnaires also specifically inquired about diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Some women were previously diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis prior to joining the study, while others developed the disease later.

The results of this study showed definitively that active smoking increased the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, results showed that when non-smokers were exposed to secondhand smoke as a child, their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis also increased.

Can Klotho Protein Help Reverse The Effects of Childhood Exposure to Secondhand Smoke?

More research is needed to understand exactly how exposure to secondhand smoke could contribute to the onset of rheumatoid arthritis. But scientists continue to research the effects of low levels of klotho protein on the development of arthritis. They are also continuing to study if administering supplemental klotho protein could help prevent or counteract the effects of arthritis. In the future, a potential treatment using klotho protein could be used to protect people that are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

  1. Zhang F, Zhai G, Kato BS, Hart DJ, Hunter D, Spector TD, Ahmadi KR. Association between KLOTHO gene and hand osteoarthritis in a female Caucasian population. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2007 Jun;15(6):624-9. Published online January 30, 2007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17270470.
  2. Witkowski JM1, Soroczyńska-Cybula M, Bryl E, Smoleńska Z, Jóźwik A. Klotho–a common link in physiological and rheumatoid arthritis-related aging of human CD4+ lymphocytes. J Immunol. 2007 Jan 15;178(2):771-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17202338.
  3. Seror R, henry J, Gusto G, Aubin HJ, Boutron-Ruault MC, and Mariette X. Passive smoking in childhood increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology. Key 219. https://doi.org/10.1093/rheumatology/key219.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis.php

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20353648

https://www.everydayhealth.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/can-smoke-cause-rheumatoid-arthritis/

https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis/what-is-rheumatoid-arthritis.php

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