Ankylosing spondylitis is an extremely severe form of inflammatory arthritis. Patients have to deal with joint stiffness and pain as a result of extra bone growth, which can lead to partial or complete spinal fusion. Spinal deformity and disability are the typical outcomes and young men are particularly susceptible to the disease. The damage can become even greater if patients happen to be smokers, Arthritis Research UK has reported citing the findings of an international study.
The team was led by Dr Sofia Ramiro of the Hospital Garcia de Orta in Almada, Portugal. Ramiro and her colleagues studied 127 ankylosing spondylitis patients, monitoring them for 12 years. Every two years, the subjects underwent physical examinations and X-ray scans. The majority of the study participants were men (71%) whose average age was 41, while the average duration of symptoms was 18 years.
The team´s findings were presented at the recently held annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology. As Ramiro told the attendees gathered in San Diego, the study showed that the effect of inflammation on X-ray damage was 5.5 times higher in smokers compared to patients who did not smoke. This unhealthy habit, especially in the case of male patients, leads to far more new bone growth in the spine even when inflammation levels are the same as those in non-smokers. Dropping the habit may reduce the extent of spinal damage and thus improve long-term outcomes and would be of particular benefit for young male patients, Ramiro added.