August 28, 2014

Smoking can exacerbate lupus symptoms such as skin rashes and scarring, research suggests

One of the most unique manifestations of lupus is in the form of skin rashes and scarring.  It occurs due to the fact that the body’s immune system is in overdrive, causing inflammation and damage to the skin, as well as to other organs.  In fact, approximately eighty-five percent of people with lupus eventually develop skin rashes, hair loss, or other skin involvement.  It can be uncomfortable, painful, and can cause a great deal of interference with a person’s daily life – including work activity.  A recent study now shows that individuals with lupus who smoke have an even higher incidence of skin damage.  This simply reaffirms the fact that smoking can be detrimental to your health, and can only worsen any health condition such as lupus.

Researchers from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center conducted a study that clearly linked skin damage and rashes to smoking in people who have lupus.  They found that although skin problems can arise in anyone who suffers from lupus, that the risk increases significantly when a person smokes regularly.  The researchers theorize that one of the reasons for this link is because smoking somehow interferes with the drugs used to combat lupus.  Most people must take drugs in order to combat the symptoms of lupus, and as there is no cure, they often have tried various combinations to find something that works for them.

The researchers also note that tobacco use impacts the skin, hair follicles, and blood vessels even in healthy people.  Additionally, because cigarette use releases cytokines at a higher rate, the immune system is more impacted.  These cytokines are responsible for increasing immune system activity and inflammation.  This could mean that smokers have an increased danger of developing lupus in the first place.  The researchers hope that this study increases the awareness of the need for smoking cessation, especially in lupus patients.  Many people may use smoking as a coping mechanism for lupus, as a way to calm them and make the pain less noticeable. But the effects can be so detrimental.

Smoking has always been linked with a variety of diseases and health conditions, including heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma.  With this study, it appears that smoking may cause autoimmune disease and worsen the condition in those who already suffer from it.  If you are a smoker and live with lupus, it is important to discuss smoking cessation programs with a health care professional.  It is difficult enough to live with the chronic condition without accelerating deterioration of your skin and other organs through smoking.

If you are a lupus patient with a pending disability claim, you should expect the judge hearing your claim to ask you if you smoke.   If you are not yet able to testify that you have quit, it can help to report that you are enrolled in a stop-smoking program.  Judges like to see claimants who are trying to help themselves.  If you smoke and show no interest in quitting you can expect a less than sympathetic response from your judge.

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