Smoking and Your Feet: Tobacco’s Hidden Impact

How smoking affects your feetIt has largely fallen out of style as more people realize how unhealthy it is, but smoking used to be a glamorous, popular habit. Famous stars everywhere smoked and supported various brands of cigarettes. Tobacco itself has been used for centuries. In the mid-20th century, however, it became clear just how damaging smoking was for your health. While most people nowadays know the effects it can have on the lungs, mouth, and teeth, the majority of people have no idea about the connection between smoking and the feet.

What Smoke Does to Feet

The effects of smoking on your lungs are pretty well advertised; most people are aware of how blackened and ineffective the lungs become. The way tobacco damages your heart and weakens your circulation is pretty well known, too. What most people don’t consider, however, is how these side effects create problems elsewhere in the body, including in the feet and ankles.

Being so far from your heart, your lower limbs have weaker circulation than other body parts even when you are healthy. Smoking only exacerbates the problem. Smoke and tobacco use can contribute to peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which clogs and narrows your arteries and sharply restricts blood flow to your extremities. The chemicals in cigarettes decrease the oxygen in your blood as well, which limits the oxygen available to your feet. Without enough oxygen, not only are your muscles weaker, but your body isn’t able to heal itself well.

Complications from Smoking

These negative effects of smoking can contribute to a number of complications in the lower limbs. The most common complication is cramping and pain in your lower limbs when you’re active. Insufficient blood flow and oxygen in the feet weakens the muscles and causes them to cramp up painfully. You may notice changes in skin color, slow nail growth, and even loss of hair on your feet and legs as well.

Since poor circulation means a weak immune system, you may be more prone to ulcers and slow-healing wounds on your lower limbs, too. If the complications get severe enough, you might even develop permanent damage to the tissues. You also become more susceptible to infections and serious secondary conditions that might even lead to limb amputations.

Tips to Quit Successfully

Quitting is hard, but with help, you can do it. Here are a few basic tips to make the process of quitting cigarettes more successful:

  • Prepare in Advance – Set a date in advance to stop smoking, then work on getting rid of all your cigarettes and ashtrays beforehand. Decide exactly why you want to quit, too; this will help motivate you when it’s tough.

  • Get Support – Tell your friends and family you are quitting, and ask for their support and encouragement.

  • Get Help – Talk to doctors about products to help you quit so you can avoid cigarettes altogether. Even one cigarette a day is detrimental.

  • Avoid Triggers – Stay away from others who are smoking. Avoid alcohol, too, since that makes you more likely to smoke.

It’s hard to quit, but your feet—and the rest of your body—will thank you for going through with it. The negative connection between smoking and the feet can be quite serious. If you smoke and you’ve noticed changes in your lower limbs, or you want help quitting and improving your foot health, let us at Podiatry Associates, P.C. know so we can assist you. You can reach out to us through our website. You can also call our Castle Pines, Parker, or Cherry Creek in Denver offices at (303) 805-5156.
Dr. Cynthia Oberholtzer-Classen, DPM
Founder and Owner of Podiatry Associates, PC