More than 50 years have passed since the Surgeon General first warned Americans about the dangers of cigarette smoking. By now, you know that smoking is dangerous for your heart and your lungs but do you know that smoking is bad for your foot health, too?
Podiatrists can often tell which patients are smokers just by looking at the skin on their feet, which is typically thinner, shinier, and redder than that of other patients. It also takes smokers longer to heal from surgery than others.
Additionally, smoking is a major factor in the development of a variety of vascular health issues. Because they are farthest from your heart, blood doesn’t circulate as easily to your hands and feet as to other parts of your body. That’s why they’re often cold. This problem is made worse if you smoke.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
When plaque builds up in your arteries, they become stiff and narrow, making it hard for blood to circulate, especially to your extremities. This is Peripheral Arterial Disease. While it’s possible to develop PAD without symptoms, you will probably notice changes in your body. Typical symptoms include leg pain while standing or walking, or sores and injuries on the feet that heal poorly, if at all.
Everyone is at risk for PAD. However, smokers’ risk of developing this condition is four times greater than non-smokers’. Smokers also tend to develop PAD earlier and more severely than non-smokers. Diabetes is another common risk factor for decreased circulation to the feet. The risk of podiatric damage in diabetic smokers is particularly high.
Raynaud’s Disease is a condition in which the blood vessels of the hands and feet periodically spasm and overreact to cold temperatures. This situation is temporary, but uncomfortable. Cigarette smoking contributes to and exacerbates Raynaud’s Disease.
Buerger’s Disease causes blood vessels in the arms and legs to swell, interfering with blood flow, leading to clots, pain, tissue damage, and even gangrene. Almost all patients with the condition are current or former smokers. People who smoke more than a pack a day are most at risk.
The most common podiatric symptoms of Buerger’s Disease are:
- Pain in the legs, ankles, or feet when walking or standing
- Pale, red, blue, cold, or painful feet
- Skin changes, sores, or ulcers on the feet
You can control your risk of the negative health consequences caused by cigarette smoking. Dr. Dr. Jeffrey Kahn recommends that you cut down or quit as soon as possible. New medications are available to help you. To keep your feet feeling their best, click here to make an appointment in one of our offices in Rocky Hill, Bristol, Middletown, Glastonbury, Newington, and Kensington today.