Nicotine and joint pain
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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Research was presented at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting (October 29-November 2, 2000 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania).
Based on an analysis of the records of more than 30,000 women (age 55-69) enrolled in the Iowa Women's Health Study since 1986 statistically significant correlations were found between:
• the incidence of elderly onset rheumatoid arthritis and the number of cigarettes smoked per day
• the incidence of elderly onset rheumatoid arthritis and how long the individual was a smoker
It was found that the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis was nearly double for current smokers compared to non-smokers. The risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis appeared lower for former smokers compared to current smokers but higher than for people who never smoked. Women who had stopped smoking at least 10 years prior to the start of the study did not have an increased risk.
Researchers are not certain why smoking increases the risk of RA for women. An interaction between smoking and the woman's immune system and/ or estrogen level has been suggested. It is thought that smoking may lower the level of estrogen. It has also been observed that smoking raises the level of rheumatoid factor in the body. Future studies will focus on determining the exact connection between smoking and rheumatoid arthritis.
Since that research was presented, there have been other studies linking smoking with a higher incidence of RA.
The nicotine patch may be associated with joint symptoms. The most frequently reported side effect from the nicotine patch is skin irritation. Those who use a 24-hour patch sometimes report having vivid dreams. The patch may also cause headache or joint pain.
Also, some temporomandibular joint dysfunction and pain have been associated with excessive chewing of nicotine gum.
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