What comes to mind when you think of the common side effects of smoking?
Typically, most of us think that smoking only affects our heart and our lungs, right?
I’m sure you wouldn’t think that smoking affects your feet?
Surely enough smoking CAN impact on the wellbeing of your feet in more ways than one. This is often owing to the nature and chemicals involved in cigarette smoke and the impact they have on our bodies at a cellular level.
How does smoking impact on skin integrity at a cellular level?
Smoking causes the blood vessels to become narrow and blocked. In severe cases, it can lead to peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
PAD occurs when the arteries (which are responsible for transportation of blood throughout the body – especially the legs and arms), become fully or partially blocked with fatty build-up.
Some symptoms to look out for if you suspect PAD include:
- Changes in skin colour of the legs or feet.
- Feeling of heaviness in your legs.
- Weakness or fatigue in your legs whilst walking (even if only for a short distance).
- Cool/cold patches on your legs and/or feet.
- Sores/ulcers that are slow to heal on your feet or legs.
- Hair, skin and nail integrity of your feet may become affected.
- Toenails may become brittle, dry and flaky.
- You may get extra painful/hard corns or callouses (that are extremely painful to remove).
If left untreated, PAD can cause further issues such as:
- Gangrene (tissue death).
So what exactly happens to your blood vessels when you smoke?
The chemicals in tobacco essentially cause the blood vessels to coagulate (or become sticky). Since the walls of the blood vessels are now extra sticky, this increases the chance of fatty deposits sticking to your blood vessel walls. Therefore, this makes your arteries and vessels much narrower and affects the volume of blood being carried throughout your body (mainly feet and legs).
Examples of such chemicals include;
- Carbon Monoxide: which affects the oxygen concentration in the blood.
- Tar: a sticky substance which coats the lungs, leading to a lower level of oxygen in the blood (resulting in delayed wound healing).
- Nicotine: an addictive substance, which narrows the blood vessels and reduces blood flow.
So why should you cut down and quit?
Would you believe that after only TWO weeks of smoking cessation, your circulation improves?
Your feet are the furthest distance from your heart, so they receive less blood supply than the rest of the body, which means every bit counts!
So what can you do today?
- Cut down on the smoking with the aim of eventually quitting.
- Look out for the above signs and symptoms and seek medical attention as soon as you become aware of such signs/symptoms.
- Book in an appointment with the friendly staff at The Podiatry Centre and get us to take a look at your feet and stop any issues in their tracks.
- We can help with advice regarding management of corns/callous and arrange for regular treatment to keep things at bay.
- Receive professional maintenance of any nail or skin issues as well as obtaining advice on at home care remedies aimed to keep your lower limbs as healthy as possible.
If you or someone you know is a smoker and has concerns with how it may affect the circulation and function of their lower limbs, contact us on 0295258446 to get assessed by one of our podiatrists. Like and follow us on FACEBOOK and INSTAGRAM and subscribe to out YOUTUBE channel ‘The Podiatry Centre’ for more information, tips and do-it-yourself remedies designed to keep your feet and lower limbs as happy and healthy as possible.
Dr Jessica Shehata (Podiatrist)