Smoking is known to increase the risk and severity of RA, and its cessation has been shown to have a positive impact in slowing the progression of other diseases like coronary disease and emphysema.
The researchers conducted the study over 14,847 patients with RA based on their smoking status.
Of those, 65.4 percent were non-smokers, 22.1 percent were former smokers and12.5 percent were active smokers
They monitored the change in Clinical Disease Activity Index-a composite measure of disease activity in people with RA that assesses change over time.
They found that Clinical Disease Activity Index was higher among active smokers than among patients who had stopped smoking.
Individual measures of active disease including swollen and tender joint counts and C-reactive protein were all lower in the patients who had stopped smoking.
These results suggest that stopping smoking can lessen RA disease activity over and above current medical treatment."While these results are preliminary, it seems that quitting smoking, which would have many other health benefits, also may benefit patients with rheumatoid arthritis," said Dr Mark C. Fisher, MPH; Research Fellow, NYU Medical Center; Hospital for Joint Disease, New York, N.Y.
"RA patients who stop smoking may see an improvement in the number of joints that hurt them every day and in how they feel overall," he added.
The research was presented at the American College of Rheumatology.