We all know that quitting smoking reduces your risk of getting lung cancer. But did you know that giving up cigarettes is beneficial for your entire body? From your head to your heart and down to your toes, pretty much every bodily system breathes a sigh of relief when you quit breathing in tar and nicotine.
One of the awful side effects of smoking is that it causes blood vessels to harden, a condition called peripheral arterial disease (PAD). The chemicals in cigarette smoke can actually slow down the free flow of blood throughout your arteries. So when you cut your foot, the arrival of healing blood is delayed because it’s jammed up on the blood vessel highway. You’re left with sores that don’t heal, increasing the chances of infection.
This decrease in circulation is especially bad news for diabetics, whose blood flow may already be compromised by fluctuations in blood sugar. Diabetics who smoke are the first patients we want to see quit here at Clifton Foot & Ankle Center – with all other smokers following closely behind.
Foot and leg symptoms in smokers
Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm, board-certified podiatrist here at Clifton, has a lot to say about the consequences of restricted blood flow to your lower legs and feet. Here’s a list of things that can happen when blood flow is compromised by PAD:
- Legs and feet are always cold
- Your muscles hurt (called intermittent claudication)
- Swelling of the legs and feet
- Little or no hair growth on your toes
- Skin becomes thin, dry, and flaky
- Toenails grow slowly and become brittle
- Difficulty walking
If you’re a smoker with any of these symptoms, contact us for a full examination of your feet, ankles, and lower legs for signs of peripheral arterial disease. If you need help quitting smoking, don’t hesitate to ask us for advice. Quitting smoking has been known to improve blood circulation to the lower limbs within a couple of weeks!
Call our office located in the suburbs of D.C. in Centreville, VA, at (703) 996-3000. Or, click here to make an appointment online.