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Next Step Foot & Ankle Clinic

The Negative Effects of Smoking on Your Body

"Hello, this is Dr. Silvester and I’m going to tell you why cigarette smoking is no good for your feet. There’s three reasons that cigarette smoking causes damage to your feet, as far as your circulation goes, and I want to explain them to you. The first one is nicotine. Nicotine is in the tobacco plant, because it is a poison for bugs, that’s why tobacco plants have nicotine. Nicotine is one of the most addictive drugs that we know about. It’s more addictive than cocaine, so it’s a tough thing to quit. Nicotine, for some reason, we have inside our blood vessels nicotine receptors, so when you smoke, the nicotine gets in your blood stream, it runs down into your blood stream and then it grabs onto one of these receptors in your artery. What it does is it actually causes your artery, which is normally this big around to shrink. That causes an immediate vasoconstriction of blood flow going into your foot and your hands, for that matter.

The second reason is, for some reason, when you smoke, there’s increased damage to the inside of the artery, and that’s called the atherosclerotic plaque. If you have an artery that’s nice, clean, and open, as you smoke, there’s plaque or blockages that occur on the walls of the artery that make the lumen, the hole that the blood flows through, smaller. If you smoke regularly, you’ve got a pinched down artery with plaque in it, so now you’ve got a very little hole.

By far the most devastating effect of cigarette smoke is the carbon monoxide that binds to your oxygen sites in your blood stream. In your blood stream you have these little carriers, let’s say they’re like chairs on a train, that carry oxygen down to your tissues. If one carbon monoxide gets in that chair, it takes 200 oxygens to get that carbon monoxide off that chair to get one oxygen in there. In other words, if you smoke regularly, this doesn’t happen very often - a lot of those sites are bound up with carbon monoxide.

The net effect is you’re delivering less blood, because you’ve got a squeezed down lumen with plaque in it, and the blood you are delivering doesn’t have a lot of oxygen on it. What happens is, your tissues are starved. Bone healing, for example, takes about twice as long if you smoke regularly, like a pack a day, it probably takes twice as long to heal a bone as opposed to people who don’t smoke.

One of the things that’s more severe over time, if you smoke over a period of years, is your circulation can actually get blocked off. Those plaques get bad enough that the lumen shuts down and you can end up with severe peripheral vascular disease from smoking. There’s actually a disease you can look up on the Internet, it’s called Buerger’s disease, and it’s caused by smoking - it’s 100% caused by smoking, where people end up losing the tips of their fingers or all of their fingers from the lack of circulation that occurs from smoking.

One more good reason to quit smoking if you can. If you can, get some help and try to quit smoking but if you can do that, you’ll add a lot of life to your feet and probably a lot of joy and happiness to your life because you’ll be able to walk longer and be healthier. Thanks for listening!"