Smoking isn’t just bad for lungs and heart. It’s harmful to your veins as well.
Most people know that smoking is bad for you. Everyone’s seen diagrams of the serious damage it does to one’s heart and lungs, and most people are aware that smoking can discolor your teeth and cause the skin to age prematurely.
However, fewer people are aware of the effects smoking has on our vein health. A cigarette is packed with harmful chemicals — chiefly, nicotine — that restrict blood flow in our leg veins. When the veins cannot properly pump blood from our legs to the heart, the blood coagulates, stretching the vein walls beyond their capacity to hold the stagnant blood. The outward manifestations of this are painful, protruding, and unsightly varicose or spider veins, but smoking has been traced to many other venous disorders as well.
What Smoking Does to Veins
Our bodies depend on a network of blood vessels to replenish our organs and tissues with much-needed oxygen and nutrients. When the carbon monoxide and nicotine contained in a cigarette bombard the delicate vessel walls, fat and plaque clump together over time in the vessels and restrict the normal flow of blood. The can lead to clogged arteries at different points in the points in the body, a condition known as atherosclerosis.
One of the most serious forms of atherosclerosis is coronary artery disease. That’s when the build-up of fat and plaque in the coronary arteries blocks blood flow to the heart. A person with coronary artery disease may have an irregular heartbeat and chest pain. If untreated, it can cause heart failure or a heart attack.
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) occurs when the sticky plaque clogs the arteries that supply blood to the head, organs, and limbs, and is frequently seen in arteries that supply blood to the legs. Cramps, pain, weakness, and numbness in the hips, thighs and calf muscles signal the arteries in the leg have been impaired by plaque. As with coronary artery disease, patients with this condition have an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.
Regular smokers are at greater risk for Buerger disease, too. Though rare, Buerger Disease is characterized by inflammation in the arteries and veins in the lower limbs and feet, which hinders blood movement to those extremities.
Smoking also contributes to blood clots forming in the deep veins in the leg. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), as it is termed medically, can be life-threatening if the clot travels to the lung and results in a pulmonary embolism. Pain, swelling, discoloration, or a warm feeling in the leg are the typical DVT symptoms. See a doctor immediately if you experience any of those symptoms.
Keeping Your Veins Healthy
Strong, properly functioning veins are essential for our overall health and well being. The professionals at the Center for Vein Restoration specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of varicose veins. If your veins have been damaged by years of smoking, contact our office today for a consultation.