Smoking Ads Show Scary Side Effects in Your Lower Extremity

Beginning at the end of March, the Center for Disease Control released its second set of “in your face” style of ads highlighting the terrifying consequences of smoking cigarettes. The ads running throughout April and May show people whose lives have been personally affected by smoking. One individual prominently featured in the ads, a former smoker named Bill, unfortunately was forced to undergo a below knee amputation after the combination of smoking and diabetes caused severe disease in his lower extremity. Smoking has a huge impact in the health of the foot and ankle, much like it does elsewhere in the body.

Smoking releases a molecule known as norepinephrine, which triggers blood vessels to constrict, or narrow. When the already small vessels in the foot constrict, oxygen and the cells that fight infection and aid in healing are unable to reach tissues. Each cigarette smoked has been shown to cause oxygen levels to fall and remain low for 30 to 50 minutes. This is of great concern in those with a foot wound or incision after surgery, in which blood flow and oxygen are vital to skin healing.

Each cigarette contains more than 4,000 chemicals. Some of these chemicals include carbon monoxide, methanol (which is found in rocket fuel), ammonia, and nicotine. Nicotine has been shown to decrease the molecules that are responsible for growth of new blood vessels and development of osteoblasts, or bone building cells. Carbon monoxide further contributes to the decrease in tissue oxygen caused by vessel constriction, by taking oxygen away from the molecule it is normally transported in in the blood. It is for these reasons that quitting smoking is imperative for individuals with foot problems. Studies have shown that there is a 2.7 times higher risk of bone not healing in smokers compared to non-smokers undergoing foot surgery. Prior to foot surgery involving bone, smoking should be stopped at least 6 weeks prior to the procedure if possible.

In individuals with diabetes or other disorders affecting their blood vessels, smoking is even more dangerous. Pressure ulcers develop when sensation is diminished and the normal feeling of pain associated with a wound is not present. Tissue healing is impaired and there is a heightened risk of infection developing. Combined with smoking, such risks are furthered increased. Individuals with diabetes who notice a foot wound, whether they are smokers or not, should contact their podiatrist immediately. Early treatment can prevent infection and worsening of the wound that can potentially lead to a need for amputation. Bill’s story in the smoking ads is a scary one, but by sharing it he may be able to prevent others from suffering a similar fate of amputation.

Please visit www.ColumbusFoot.com for more information or call 614-885-3338 (FEET) to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Podiatry & Surgery is located on the North side of Columbus, Ohio near Worthington.

Columbus Podiatry & Surgery has opened a new location in Gahanna, near Easton. Please call 614-476-3338 (FEET) for an appointment with a podiatrist in Gahanna, OH today.

If you would like to be seen by our podiatrists in Dublin, Ohio near Tuttle Crossing, call 614-859-3338 (FEET) for an appointment.

By Dr. Animesh (Andy) Bhatia