Every year on May 31st, the world marks World No Tobacco Day, a day dedicated to highlighting the harmful effects of tobacco consumption and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco use. Tragically, over eight million lives are lost annually due to diseases directly linked to tobacco, making it the world's leading preventable cause of death.
Tobacco and Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a condition where the arteries supplying blood to the legs become narrowed or blocked, affecting nearly 200 million people worldwide. Tobacco plays a significant role in the onset of PAD. It damages the inner lining of blood vessels, leading to their constriction and reduced blood flow. Furthermore, smoking promotes blood clot formation, exacerbating the problem.
The Impact on Your Ankles
Nicotine, found in cigarettes, hampers blood flow to bones and spinal discs and degrades estrogen, essential for bone health. This makes joints susceptible to fractures.
Tobacco and Venous Disease
While the link between smoking and artery disease is well-established, its impact on leg veins is less discussed. Smoking can lead to discomfort, swelling, and redness in the legs. More alarmingly, if a clot dislodges and travels to the lungs, it can have severe repercussions. Smoking increases the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) by promoting clot formation and impairing blood vessel function.
Varicose veins, characterized by twisted, protruding veins on the legs and feet, are another concern. Though the exact causes remain elusive, smoking is a recognized risk factor, damaging vein valves and impairing their function.
Tobacco and Wound Healing
Wound healing is a complex process that relies on a robust blood supply to transport oxygen and nutrients to the affected areas. Smoking impedes this by reducing blood flow and oxygen supply, and weakening the immune system. For those with conditions like diabetic foot ulcers, which already compromise blood flow, smoking can significantly prolong healing times, escalating the risk of complications and even amputation.
Adopting a Healthier Lifestyle
To mitigate the effects of "smoker’s leg", consider the following:
- Quit Smoking: The primary risk factor for PAD is smoking. Ceasing this habit can slow PAD's progression and reduce complications.
- Engage in Regular Physical Activity: Consult a doctor for suitable exercises. Activities like leg exercises, walking, and treadmill workouts can alleviate symptoms.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight increases the risk of smoker’s leg.
- Eat a Balanced Diet: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in cholesterol and trans fats can help regulate cholesterol levels.
When to Consult a Doctor?
Seek medical advice if you experience:
- Leg aching or numbness while walking
- Limbs appearing pale or colorless with weak or no pulse
- Symptoms of PAD and are over 50 years old