What are smoker’s feet? Signs and symptoms

What are smoker’s feet?  Signs and symptoms

Smoking can have a significant effect on your feet. The nicotine in tobacco products can cause blood vessels to constrict, leading to significant foot problems for some smokers.

Most people are aware of the effects that smoking can have on the heart, lungs, and kidneys. However, you may not realize that smoking can cause problems in other parts of your body, including your feet and legs. Read on for more information.

In short, yes, smoking can affect your feet and legs by reducing blood flow and slowing bone growth. Loosely referred to as “smoker’s feet,” smoking can actually lead to a number of different conditions in the feet and legs.

Tobacco products contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical. One of the effects that nicotine has within the body is vasoconstriction, or narrowing, of the blood vessels, making it very difficult for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. This can lead to slower blood flow and can cut off circulation to different parts of the body.

Since your hands and feet are the furthest from your heart with the smallest blood vessels, they are often the most affected. Reduced or cut off circulation can lead to:

  • blood clots
  • slower wound healing
  • decreased sensation in the feet
  • nerve damage
  • tissue death

There are several foot and leg conditions that can be caused by smoking. Read on for more information.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is the condition most people think of when they say “smoker’s feet.” It develops when plaque (fatty deposits) clogs the arteries and limits blood flow to the extremities. This leads to limited ability to walk due to pain in the legs or feet, and greatly increases the chances of having a stroke or heart attack.

PAD is fairly common, a recent report showed that one in 20 people in the United States over the age of 50 has PAD. Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for developing PAD.

Symptoms include:

  • fatigue, heaviness, or weakness in the legs or feet
  • leg or foot pain
  • open sores or wounds on the toes, feet, and legs that are slow to heal or do not heal at all
  • color changes or persistent coldness in the feet or legs
  • poor nail and hair growth

Buerger’s disease

Buerger’s disease, also known as thromboangiitis obliterans, is an inflammatory disease that causes blood clots to form inside blood vessels. These clots can impede blood flow, most commonly to extremities such as the fingers and toes.

This lack of blood flow to the feet and hands can lead to pain, tissue damage, or even gangrene – the death and deterioration of body tissues due to lack of oxygen and nutrients. In some cases, gangrene can lead to amputation.

The risk of developing Buerger’s disease is greatly increased when you smoke a lot. The best treatment is to stop smoking.

the most common symptoms of Buerger’s disease are:

  • pale, red, or bluish fingers and toes
  • cold hands or feet
  • pain or tingling in the hands, legs, and feet
  • small painful sores on the fingers or toes, or swollen veins


Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones break down faster than they can grow back. smoking has been shown to slow down bone growth, which can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of breaking or fracturing bones.

The most common signs that you may be developing osteoporosis include:

  • receding gums
  • weakened grip strength
  • brittle nails
  • increased fractures or breaks from falls
  • stooped posture
  • getting shorter over time

Smoking slows bone growth and creates inflammation in the arteries that can reduce blood supply. For this reason, studies have shown that fractures or bone fractures take longer to heal if you smoke.

Raynaud’s syndrome

Raynaud’s syndrome is a condition in which blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears, or nose is interrupted or restricted. Raynaud’s syndrome is usually associated with triggers, the most common being a cold temperature. Since smoking affects blood flow through small blood vessels, it is a major risk factor for the development of Raynaud’s syndrome.

If you have Raynaud’s syndrome, you may experience:

  • cold, numb, pale fingers or toes, particularly after exposure to cold
  • when circulation recovers, redness, swelling, or discomfort in the same regions
  • in severe cases, you can develop skin ulcers or tissue death

plantar calluses

Plantar calluses are thick calluses that form on the soles of the feet. This is a very common condition and is easily treated.

there is evidence that smoking can lead to more calluses on the feet due to the restriction of blood flow.

All of these conditions can be caused or worsened by heavy smoking. If you think you may have or may be developing any of these conditions, talk to your doctor.

The main way smoking can affect the health of your feet is by reducing blood flow to your extremities and slowing bone growth and healing.

Smoking limits the flow of blood through the arteries and veins in two main ways:

  • First of all, many tobacco products contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical. Nicotine has been shown to constrict blood vessels, making them narrower, limiting the amount of blood they can carry, and decreasing blood flow. Over time, this can also make them stiffer, making the heart work harder to circulate blood.
  • Second, the chemicals in cigarettes can weaken the cells inside your blood vessels, making it easier for fatty deposits called plaque to build up and further restrict blood flow.

Smoking has also been shown to slow down and hinder bone growth. This means that if you are a heavy smoker, you are more like have weaker bones, which can lead to more frequent fractures and breaks with a longer healing time.

The diagnosis varies with each condition that affects the feet. If you are a smoker and are concerned that you may be developing a foot condition, start by talking to your GP or a podiatrist (a doctor who specializes in foot care).

In many cases, there is no specific test to help diagnose these conditions. Your doctor may order blood tests to rule out other conditions and perform comparative blood pressure tests on your arms and legs.

They may order images, such as an angiogram, a scan that visualizes your arteries, or an ultrasound of your veins.

In all cases, the first step is to talk to a healthcare professional.

The best thing you can do to stop or slow any of these conditions is to stop smoking.

Treatment varies for each condition, but in most cases, there is no cure. Your health care professional may recommend the following to help relieve symptoms:

  • exercise
  • eating a balanced diet
  • keep your feet warm in cold weather
  • take calcium supplements

You can also take steps to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure with medication.

There are additional risk factors for certain foot conditions if you smoke. Although they vary between each condition, there are some additional factors that can lead to conditions such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD), Buerger’s disease, as well as an increased risk of developing blood clots:

According to the National Institutes of Health, research shows that PAD occurs more often among blacks than whites. One reason for this may be inequalities in health care.

Those assigned female at birth are more likely to develop osteoporosis than those assigned male. The CDC found that the age-adjusted prevalence of osteoporosis was higher among women (19.6%) compared to men (4.4%).

The prognosis for these foot conditions varies depending on the condition you are experiencing. In extreme cases of untreated conditions like Buerger’s disease, you may experience tissue death or gangrene, which can sometimes lead to amputation.

One concern for the development of PAD is the greatly increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

However, for many of these conditions, symptoms have been shown to lessen once you stop smoking.

Can using e-cigarettes and vaporizers also harm my feet?

Yes, the chemical nicotine is responsible for many of the conditions listed above. If you use a vaporizer or e-cigarette that contains nicotine or other harmful chemicals, you are at risk of developing these conditions.

How long does it take to improve blood circulation after quitting smoking?

blood circulation has been shown to improve between 6 and 12 weeks after quitting smoking. This should help you have healthier feet and legs.

Does gangrene always lead to amputation?

If caught early, gangrene (or tissue death) does not always lead to amputation. However, if left untreated or if the infection begins to spread, amputation may be necessary to save your life.

Smoking negatively affects all aspects of your health, and your feet and legs are no exception.

There are a variety of foot and leg conditions you can develop from smoking, ranging in severity from increased risk of foot calluses, increased risk of bone fractures, tissue death, and amputation.

The first thing you can do for the health of your feet, legs and in general is to stop smoking.

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