Not Just Lungs: Smoking Is Bad for Feet, Too

Chemical nicotineBy now, just about everybody knows smoking is bad for you. That’s helped smoking rates to fall to decline dramatically over the last few generations—from almost half of U.S. adults 50 years ago to about 1 in 6 today.

The anti-smoking message is usually about addiction and lung cancers, and those are certainly very good reasons to quit (or never start). But smoking’s effects are even wider ranging than that. Even your feet and legs can be significantly affected, particularly your circulation and nerve health. Everyone knows that smoking can cost you a lung—do you know that it could cost you a leg, too?

Smoking is one of the leading risk factors of peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition in which plaque builds up in blood vessels supplying needed oxygen and nutrients to the extremities. Although PAD is often more closely associated with diabetes, smokers are equally susceptible. Other, related circulatory conditions (such as Buerger’s disease) are also closely linked to tobacco use.

Early symptoms of PAD can include cramping, leg pain, difficulty standing or walking for even brief periods, thin or discolored skin, sores, coldness, numbness, and more. However, it’s the eventual complications that are most worrisome—without nutrients, sores don’t heal and can get infection, tissues can starve and die (gangrene), and you could be looking at amputation of a toe, part of a foot, or even a whole foot and more. It’s also worth noting that plaque buildup isn’t usually restricted just to the legs—reduced blood flow to vessels supplying the heart or brain, for example, greatly increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

While you probably don’t need any more convincing that smoking and tobacco use aren’t good for you—and of course, the best choice for any smoker is to kick the habit entirely—if you do smoke we urge you to pay close attention to the condition of your feet and legs. If you notice any pain, cramping, or other problems, please make an appointment with Dr. Danciger as soon as possible. It could end up saving your limb—or your life.

To request a time with the doctor, please use our online contact form or give us a call at 760-568-0108.

Dr. Harvey Danciger
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Dr. Harvey Danciger is a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Palm Desert, CA specializing in the foot and ankle
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