Any former smoker knows that giving up cigarettes isn’t easy, but if you still smoke, quitting is the single best thing that you can do for your health. You already know that tobacco use is dangerous for your heart and your lungs and can shorten your life. Less alarming, but also important to know about, is the effect of smoking on your feet. Smoking negatively affects circulation and puts your podiatric health at risk.
It’s hardest for your heart to pump blood to your hands and feet because they are farthest away. As a result, they don't receive as much circulation as other parts of your body. This lower blood flow is common in people of both genders and all ages and explains why the extremities are often cold. However, it’s especially prevalent and more severe among smokers, as tobacco use further diminishes blood flow.
Many podiatrists report that they can easily tell which of their patients are smokers. There are two major telltale signs:
- The skin on smokers’ feet is often thinner, shinier, and redder than that of other patients.
- Smokers typically take longer to heal from surgery or injury than non-smokers.
The following are conditions that are exacerbated with smoking.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) occurs when plaque builds up in arteries, causing them to grow stiff and narrow. It then becomes difficult for blood to circulate, especially to the legs and feet. Smokers have a four times greater risk of developing PAD than non-smokers do. Continuing to smoke after a diabetes diagnosis puts you at even more risk.
Spotting PAD: Be on the lookout for leg pain and for sores or injuries on your feet that heal poorly, or not at all.
Raynaud’s Disease is a condition in which the blood vessels of the hands and feet spasm and overreact to cold environments. This is temporary, but can be uncomfortable. Cigarette smoking leads to and exacerbates Raynaud’s Disease.
Spotting Raynaud’s Disease: Take note of cold, pale feet with white or blue toes.
Buerger’s Disease causes blood vessels in the arms and legs to swell, interfering with blood flow and causing clots, pain, tissue damage, or gangrene. Non-smokers rarely contract Buerger’s Disease; almost everyone with the condition is a current or former smoker. The risk is highest for people who smoke more than a pack a day.
Spotting Buerger’s Disease: Be aware of a potential problem if your feet become pale, red, blue, cold, or uncomfortable, if you experience pain in the arch of your foot when walking, or if there are painful sores or ulcers on your feet.
New medications make quitting easier now than ever before. If you are a current or former smoker, regular visits to the podiatrist are especially important in maintaining good health in your feet and legs. At Podiatry Group of Annapolis, we are committed to helping patients in the Annapolis, MD area reach their health care goals through high quality foot care. Call 410-224-4448 or click here to make a convenient appointment to see Dr. James M. McKee in our Annapolis office today.