Individuals who smoke often tend to have poor circulation, which can lead to a major foot condition known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which currently affects more than eight million Americans. Most podiatrists are able to easily determine whether a person smokes based on the appearance of their feet, on which the skin will often show signs of redness, thinness, and shininess as a result of poor circulation.
What is the link between smoking and PAD?
With PAD, plaque builds up in the arteries that run down the length of your legs to your feet, similar to how plaque builds up in arteries near the heart in those with heart disease. As a result, the affected arteries become stiff and narrow, which prevents blood from circulating in a healthy, normal manner. PAD can cause those who suffer from the condition to feel leg pain when walking around, and will notice that foot sores and injuries heal slowly and inefficiently. Unfortunately, PAD isn’t always easily detected through a specific set of signs and symptoms.
Since smoking has a direct effect on the body’s ability to circulate blood, smokers are often at four times greater the risk for developing PAD than non-smokers, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Furthermore, those who suffer from PAD are at five times greater risk for dying from issues related to heart disease.
Quit smoking to lower your risk for PAD
If you’re a smoker, make an appointment with your podiatrist as soon as possible to have your feet screened for PAD, especially if you’ve been experiencing leg pain while walking around. Your podiatrist will examine your feet, and determine whether you’re at risk for developing PAD.
Additionally, it may be wise to prepare yourself to quit smoking immediately to lower your risk for PAD, heart disease, lung cancer, and other fatal health conditions. Set a date on which you want to quit smoking, and work toward lowering your daily nicotine intake and engaging in one or more smoking cessation programs as needed.
Make an appointment with your primary care doctor as well to learn more about your options for treatments that may help you quit smoking. Your health care provider may prescribe special medications, as well as nicotine products that can help wean you off cigarettes and tobacco products for good.
Lastly, ask your podiatrist about exercises you can start doing in an effort to restore your overall health and foot health. Exercise can often be a great, healthy diversion to smoking, and can help improve your circulation and foot health.
Do you suspect that your foot health might be suffering as a result of smoking? Call Kansas City Foot Specialists to schedule an evaluation at (913) 338-4440, or request an appointment online so we can determine the true cause of your injury and get you back on your feet.