Let us start by stating the obvious: Your lungs are pretty far from your feet. And your mouth is even farther away. So at first blush, it may seem sort of silly to talk about smoking and foot health. What in the world could smoking have to do with your lower extremities?
As it turns out—plenty.
A Bad Combination: Plaque Builds Up, Oxygen Goes Down
Over time, a smoker’s lungs become less efficient at the process of distributing oxygen to the rest of the body. Meanwhile, a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels makes it more difficult for blood to circulate properly.
In combination, less oxygen and poorly circulating blood can lead to pain in your feet and legs—and can also mean that you will heal more slowly if you are injured or develop sores on your feet.
Osteoporosis and Buerger’s Disease
Smoking increases your risk for many health problems, and among them are osteoporosis, which causes the weakening of your bones, and Buerger’s disease, which leads to swelling in the blood vessels that restricts blood flow and can lead to clots.
Because your feet carry all of your weight and absorb the force of each step you take, it is important to keep the bones healthy. Osteoporosis greatly increases the risk of foot fractures. Buerger’s disease can lead to a range of bad outcomes—including damaged tissue, ongoing pain in the feet, and gangrene. In worst-case scenarios, those issues can lead to amputation.
Our Advice Is Unlikely to Surprise You
While it might be surprising to learn how smoking can affect your feet, we suspect you won’t be surprised by our advice for maximizing your foot health: Stop smoking.
We know, of course, that this is often easier said than done, but we sincerely encourage you to try.
And in the meantime, we can help you support your foot health in other ways. For example, an exercise program can be designed to encourage better blood flow to your feet and to strengthen your bones. Some good nutritional choices can also help. And we can advise you concerning your footwear choices—including fitting you for custom orthotics.
Clearing the Smoke: We Are Here to Help
At InStride Carolina Podiatry Group, our goal is to help you maintain your active lifestyle by keeping your feet and ankles in tiptop shape. If you are a smoker, we encourage you to make an effort to stop—but we will meet you where you are and help you make the best possible choices regarding your foot health. Contact us today to talk about ways to keep your feet as healthy as possible.