Removal of tonsils in childhood is linked to an increased risk of arthritis in old age, a study suggests.
Those who had the procedure when they were young were about a third more likely to develop a type of chronic inflammatory arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis.
People were at higher risk if they had an older sibling, Swedish researchers found, suggesting that early-life environmental factors play a role in the disease.
Almost 7,000 people with the disease, diagnosed between January 2001 and December 2022, participated in the study.
People were analyzed for early life risk factors, including mother’s age at delivery, weight (BMI) at early pregnancy, length of pregnancy, baby’s birth weight, and birth weight. type of birth.
Swedish experts say removing tonsils was associated with a 30 percent higher risk of developing arthritis in old age (file image)
Other factors considered were the number of siblings, serious childhood infections from birth to age 15, and removal of tonsils and appendix before age 16.
The researchers found that those with older siblings had a 12 to 15 percent higher risk, while associated severe childhood infections increased the chances by 13 percent.
However, removing tonsils was associated with a 30 percent increased risk of the condition, usually characterized by inflammation of the spine, joints and tendons, causing pain, stiffness and fatigue.
Being part of a multiple birth increased the risk by almost a quarter (23 per cent), while being born in the summer or autumn months carried a significantly lower risk than being born in winter, according to the BMJ findings.
Scientists speculate that the increased risk may be because babies with older siblings are more exposed to infections early in life, while tonsillectomies were often performed after infections.
The researchers then conducted a sibling comparison analysis, which adjusts for potentially influential environmental factors shared within families.
This analysis indicated an increased risk of 18 percent for one older sibling compared to none, increasing to 34 percent for two or more older siblings and 36 percent for those who had their tonsils removed.
The researchers conclude: ‘Having older siblings and a history of tonsillectomy in childhood were independently associated with the development of (ankylosing spondylitis), even after adjustment for shared family factors in a sibling comparison analysis.
“This reinforces the hypothesis that childhood infections play a role in the etiology (of the condition).”