Have you ever considered that your feet and smoking are linked? What about the fact that you are a diabetic and you smoke? You probably get bombarded with the impact on your lungs, your heart, the fact that you are at a higher risk of developing cancer; and if it does develop, your survival period could be shorter. What about the impact on your skin and teeth, or that smoker’s cough you may develop.
Were you ever warned about your feet though? You may not have considered how smoking and feet are connected. Those negative effects in your heart, lungs, and organs can also be found in your lower limbs.
Foot Pains and Tobacco
Although far away from your heart and lungs, your feet are still connected to them, and suffer when they are compromised. Over time, smoking severely damages your lungs, decreasing your air capacity. You’re not able to breathe or absorb oxygen as easily. Tobacco stiffens the walls of your arteries as well, creating peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Plaque builds up and narrows your blood vessels, decreasing blood flow to your extremities. The loss of healthy blood, in addition to your impaired ability to take in oxygen, means that significantly less of the nutrients and energy your body requires reaches your feet. This can result in foot and leg pain when you’re active, along with trouble recovering from sores or other small injuries.
Conditions that tend to occur
Smoking increases your risk of osteoporosis, intermittent claudication, Buerger’s disease, gangrene, and amputation.
• Osteoporosis is the slow, steady breakdown of your hard bone tissue. Healthy bones are able to replace old tissue. With osteoporosis, the bone is destroyed and not replaced quickly enough, thinning your skeleton, and making it brittle and weak. Since your feet handle so much pressure from your body weight and the force of your steps, fragile bones increase your risk for foot fractures.
• Intermittent claudication is pain in your legs on walking. An indication that muscles and structures are being starved of oxygen and nutrients.
• Buerger’s disease occurs mostly in men aged 25 to 45, usually in heavy smokers, causing blockages in the small arteries of the feet and lower limbs.
• Gangrene is where there is little or no blood to the tissues. As tissues become starved of oxygen and nutrients, the skin, muscles, die and become blackened. This can lead to amputation of toes or even feet and legs.
• Amputation is where the dead and decaying tissues are cut off either surgically, or by dropping off over a period.
Management of Symptoms
Increasing your circulation, eating healthily, and accommodating your feet are all important for avoiding permanent problems and relieving pain. Eating protein, calcium, and vitamin D rich foods combat thinning bones. Strength and resistance training also increases bone density. You may still need to make shoe adjustments or use orthotics to help support your lower limbs and avoid injuries. If conservative measures are not enough, you may need surgery to correct circulatory problems or fix fractures.
Concerned about your feet and body:
• Start planning ahead to help prepare yourself for quitting. Set targets, reduce gradually and then stop buying more. Remove cigarettes and ashtrays from your home, car, and other surroundings. Ask your friends and family for encouragement and support.
• Talk to your doctor if needed. Several medications including different types of nicotine products, such as nasal spray, lozenges, and patches can double your chances of quitting. There is also the gum and the electronic cigarette.
• Being around other people who are smoking can make you want to smoke. In addition, drinking alcohol makes you more likely to smoke. If you frequent bars and other places where alcohol and smoking tend to come together, now’s a good time to find a new hangout.
• Given you’re stopping, find a practice that could give you pleasure. Do something fun that keeps your mind off the cigarettes. Taking regular baths or exercising is healthy, stress-reducing ways to distract yourself.
Smoking can have a significant, negative impact on your feet. We repeatedly see the effects at the clinic, but unfortunately it’s when the inevitable outcomes have started manifesting. Quitting tobacco use is the best way to avoid painful and potentially life-threatening health issues… So don’t take your feet for granted.