Many of the dangers of smoking cigarettes, including cancers, COPD, and emphysema, are well known. For Lupus Warriors, it’s also important to understand the impacts of nicotine on the immune system.
Cigarette smoke, including secondhand smoke, is well-known as a risk factor for different kinds of cancers, infections, cardiovascular problems, lung diseases, and autoimmune diseases – including lupus. In fact, studies and the Surgeon General’s Report have found a causal connection between smoking and autoimmune conditions (including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and SLE) even 20 years after quitting!
Smoking cigarettes can also adds new symptoms to the mix. In a 2009 study with 276 participants (primarily caucasian women), smoking was associated with a 95% chance of having skin symptoms such as scarring, alopecia (hair loss), and rashes. You can read more about the skin symptoms of lupus and cutaneous lupus in general here.
The risks don’t stop with the skin. Smoking cigarettes also makes it harder to heal from wounds and bone damage, and it may also make lupus medications such as tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) inhibitors and antimalarials less effective. This weakens the body, and makes it vulnerable to damage and infection.