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Study: Smoking Enhances Cartilage Loss, Pain

   We know smoking is bad. However, it is worse for men who smoke and suffer from osteoarthritis in the knees.

A study from Boston University School of Medicine shares that males who smoke while suffering from knee osteoarthritis have more severe pain and greater cartilage loss than those who do not.

Over the course of 30 months, 159 males with osteoarthritis in the knees were evaluated by assessing cartilage using MRI scanning and attributing their pain level with a score. Nineteen of the 159 men were smokers. After assessing additional factors of the study, i.e. age, body mass index, and cartilage scores, it was determined that the smokers displayed a greater risk of cartilage loss and reported more pain when compared to men in the study who did not smoke.

Reasons that may explain the link between smoking and cartilage loss include:

  • Smoking may distort the cells and deter cell production in cartilage
  • Smoking may raise levels of toxins in the blood, contributing to cartilage loss
  • Smoking may increase carbon monoxide levels in the blood, affecting blood oxygenation, which could impede cartilage repair

However, researchers have since determined that cartilage does not have pain fibers and therefore increased pain may not be caused by cartilage loss. Although, smoking may impact other structures in and around the knee or may have an effect on pain perception.

September 2008

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