For a while, smoking was a symbol of symbol of sophistication and “coolness.” You saw cigarettes hanging out of the mouths of movie stars, musicians, business people, teachers, farmers—everyone seemed to smoke something. Then, medical research revealed how deeply unhealthy the habit was for your body, especially the heart and lungs. Smoking and your feet are connectedas well, though you may not realize it.
The Truth about Feet and Smoking
Smoking seriously harms many different body structures, weakening and compromising them. Your skin, your bones, and your circulation all feel the effects. The chemicals in tobacco smoke cause the damage. In your skin, various tissue components are affected, causing sagging, wrinkles, and age spots. Weaker skin also makes you more prone to problems like sores on your lower limbs.
Smoking weakens your bones as well. The chemicals upset the balance of hormones your body needs to maintain a healthy skeleton. They also discourage hard tissue production and trigger bone breakdown. Over time, your bones thin out and become more vulnerable to fractures. Your feet have a particularly high risk for this, since they must deal with an intense amount of pressure from every step.
Smoking also causes stiffening in your blood vessels and a build-up of plaque along your artery walls. This constricts your blood flow, decreasing your circulation. Because your lower limbs are so far from your heart and lungs, they already have a slower blood flow than most of your body. If that flow is restricted even more, the loss can lead to peripheral artery disease and all the painful symptoms that go with it. Frequently, you will develop aches in your feet and legs when you’re active. Your skin may become discolored and develop slow-healing sores.
The problems between smoking and your feet are even worse if you have a condition like diabetes that already impairs your lower limb health. Damage from diabetic foot complications compromises your nervous system, making you more likely to miss injuries in your lower limbs. If your odds of developing sores and broken bones are increased by smoking, but you can’t feel them because of diabetes, you could incur very serious damage like ulcers and Charcot foot. Your decreased circulation from both diabetes and smoking also limits your body’s ability to heal itself, compounding the issue.
Avoiding Continued Damage
If you smoke and already notice changes in your lower limbs, you need to have your feet and ankles evaluated right away to see the extent of the problem. The issue is even more urgent if you have diabetes. Our team of specialists here at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle will evaluate your lower limbs to see how much damage has occurred. Then, we can help treat your feet and develop a plan to quit smoking so you better protect your lower limbs from future problems.
You may need to change your footwear or add orthotics to better protect your feet from pressure that could lead to sores. This can also help support your limbs and absorb shock so you’re less likely to break a bone. You’ll need to take steps to improve your circulation and bone health as well. This may involve dietary and exercise adjustments. You’ll also need to take steps to keep your skin moist and clean.
Smoking and your feet may not seem like they belong together, but the one does negatively affect the other. You don’t have to let an old habit damage your lower limbs, or any other part of your body, though. Contact NorthPointe Foot & Ankle for more information or make an appointment to evaluate your feet and take care of your lower limbs. Call our Berkley, MI, office at (248) 545-0100 or use our website contact form to reach us.